Navy commander faces Article-32 hearing in 'Fat Leonard' corruption case

The Former F/A-18 Hornet pilot has been charged with conspiring with Leonard Francis, from 2012 to 2013, to bribe Navy officials to influence ship schedules.

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- He is the first military officer charged for crimes related to the so-called "Fat Leonard" scandal.

Monday, commander David Alexander Morales appeared at what is called an "Article-32 hearing," at Naval Station Norfolk.

Morales stands accused by prosecutors of bribery, graft, prostitution and adultery. He could face 33 years in prison.

It's the latest development in a wide-ranging corruption scandal that, for at least four years, has rocked the Navy.

The former F/A-18 Hornet pilot has been charged with conspiring with Leonard Francis, from 2012 to 2013, to bribe Navy officials to influence ship schedules.

The prosecution also says the 1992 Naval Academy graduate lied to commanders and failed to report at least one foreign contact.

Prosecutors contended at a preliminary hearing in Norfolk today that Morales accepted bottles of champagne, $5,000 meals and sex.

They said Morales helped Singapore-based businessman, nicknamed "Fat Leonard," secure lucrative contracts to service U.S. Navy ships in Asian ports, which Francis used to defraud the Navy.

The case against 49-year-old Morales is the first to be prosecuted in a military court.

The Justice Department has already charged 25 people in civilian court. They include Francis, who has pleaded guilty. Also implicated: nine officers, including a retired admiral.

Morales' attorney, Frank Spinner, told reporters in court that the Navy has a weak case that federal officials weren't willing to prosecute. He said Morales will fight the Navy's graft and bribery charges. Spinner did not return 13News Now's call for further comment.

Morales reported administratively to the staff of Naval Air Force Atlantic in March of this year.

After the filing of closing argument reports this Friday, the convening authority in the case, Commander U-S Fleet Forces, will have 14 days to decide whether there is probable cause for the case to be referred for general court-martial.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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