This past Tuesday, a pair of plea deals was tossed out by a federal judge who stated that a stint in prison was not a harsh enough sentence for the naval engineer and his schoolteacher wife who admitted to allegedly selling off secrets about a nuclear-powered submarine to a still undisclosed foreign entity in exchange for tens of thousands od dollars in the form of cryptocurrency.
Living in Annapolis, Maryland, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe were taken into custody by a group of undercover federal agents in West Virginia last October in the wake of a series of “dead drops.” The entire conspiracy started all the way back in April of 2020 when the husband allegedly sent out a package containing military documents and contact information.
Their attempted scheme, however, collapsed in on itself almost immediately as soon as Brazilian intelligence officials notified the Federal Bureau of Investigations of the what the pair was attempting to do. The couple would then later plead guilty in February to charges of espionage.
As the leader of the pair when it comes to these alleged crimes against national security, Mr. Toebbe first agreed to take a 12-year sentence plea bargain, while his wife, who went along with him as a lookout, chose to plea out for a three-year deal, as reported by The New York Times.
Despite these agreements, Judge Gina M. Groh of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia shot down their plans and forced them to withdraw their plea agreements.
Groh stated, reportedly, that she would only allow a plea deal for both parties within specific sentencing guidelines, which would slam both of the guilty parties with a sentence of well over 15 years in prison.
The federal-level judge read out a statement that had been sent in by Vice Adm. William Houston of the Navy, which issued condemnation for the damage done to the submarine fleet and national security as a whole as a result of the actions taken by Toebbes.
“The nation has spent billions of dollars developing naval nuclear propulsion technology,” stated Judge Groh, while still reading from the statement. “Mr. Toebbe’s actions have compromised the integrity of this protected information, thereby undercutting the military advantage afforded by decades of research and development.”
Houston claimed in the statement that Mr. Toebbe, who has been officially trained in the handling of classified data and nuclear prop-ulsion, could have let foreign military powers to close the gap with the U.S. and it would take an extreme effort and resources to restore.
A report from CBS News stated that the husband hid a memory card containing classified information inside a peanut butter sandwich as part of one exchange. Additionally, the New York Times reported that other drops made use of memory cards in Band-Aid boxes and gum wrappers to hide drops.
Judge Groh has slated a new trial to take place for the pair in January.