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US sailor facing court martial on espionage charges

By Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann, CNN

(CNN) — A US sailor who served in Japan has been accused of espionage by the US Navy and is facing a court martial on charges including communicating national defense information to a citizen of a foreign government, according to a charge sheet obtained by CNN on Wednesday.

A US Naval Surface Force spokesperson confirmed to CNN that “a sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is suspected of mishandling classified documents and information. The incident remains under investigation and legal proceedings continue.”

The sailor, Chief Petty Officer Fire Controlman (AEGIS) Bryce S. Pedicini is assigned to the Japan-based destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76), according to the charge sheet. The document accuses him of 14 counts of espionage and the communication of defense information, in addition to failing to obey a lawful order by not reporting a foreign contact or that a foreigner had solicited classified information from him.

While serving on the USS Higgins, Pedicini was taken into custody in May 2023 when, according to the Navy charge sheet, he wrongfully transported information he knew to be classified. Navy prosecutors say that included photographs of a classified computer screen that he attempted to transfer to a foreign government.

After being taken into custody Pedicini was moved to San Diego, where he remains in pre-trial confinement, a Navy official said.

According to the Navy charge sheet, Pedicini gave classified information to a citizen and employee of a foreign government at least six different times, beginning in November 2022 when he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. The charge sheet does not specify which foreign government.

US Naval Institute News was first to report.

Originally from Tennessee, Pedicini enlisted in the Navy in 2008, according to his Navy record. During his career, he served on two other destroyers as well, the USS McFaul for nearly seven years and the USS Curtis Wilbur for more than five years. He was promoted to the rank of chief fire controlman in August 2022. He received three Good Conduct Medals and the National Defense Service Medal, according to his record.

A Navy fire controlman plays a critical role in a ship’s weapon systems, operating the radars, fire control systems, and computer systems that control the weaponry.

A Navy lawyer for Pedicini declined to comment through a Navy public affairs officer.

Pedicini was not the first Navy service member to be detained last year on espionage charges. In August, two US Navy servicemembers were arrested for allegedly transmitting sensitive military information to China. One of them, Wenheng Zhao, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to serve 27 months in prison. The other, Jinchao Wei, has pleaded not guilty and his case is ongoing.

Pedicini’s alleged leaks of classified information also played out as Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was accused of posting classified information online on Discord.

According to charging documents, Teixeira held a top secret security clearance and allegedly began posting information about the documents online around February 2022 and photos of documents in January 2023.

Teixeira was arrested in April 2023, just one month before Pedicini was taken into custody.

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