On Wednesday, a civilian nuclear engineer working for the U.S. Navy was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for trying to sell U.S. nukes secrets to people they believed to be foreign governments.
U.S. District Judge Gina Groh sentenced Jonathan Toebbe to 19 years, three months, and nine months in prison. His top-secret security clearance was for his role as a Naval Engineer. Diana, a teacher, was sentenced to 21 years, and 10 months.
Groh rejected plea deals that had called for leniency in the past because of the “great threat” she felt the couple posed to national safety. The judge called the Toebbes “confessed traitors”, who had committed “horrible actions against this nation.”
Jonathan Toebbe, a fictitious representative of a foreign country, provided information to FBI agents throughout 2021. His wife was a watchdog while her husband stored sensitive nuclear secrets on SD cards in “dead drop” locations.
It reads like a meticulously planned spy novel. Toebbes would travel hundreds of to drop information and exchange encrypted messages with “foreign contacts” before accepting payment in cryptocurrency.
According to the Washington Post, “The restricted data contained some of the most secure information about our nuclear-powered navy fleet’,” according to Vice Adm. William J. Houston, commander of U.S. submarine forces.
According to The Daily Mail, Jonathan Toebbe has requested $100,000 each for 51 information packets.
The Toebbes informed their foreign contacts at one point that they had their passports ready. They wanted to leave the country because they were afraid for their lives and also because they opposed the Trump administration.
Johnathan Toebbe encouraged his spouse to lie about her involvement in the plot after their arrests, according to two letters he wrote to her while they were in jail. He claimed that he was able to avoid the clues investigators use to find threats from the inside because of his years in top-secret work.
The defense attorneys attempted to portray a sympathetic image of the couple. Johnathan Toebbe was portrayed as an overworked public servant who suffered from a nervous breakdown and resorted to alcohol to deal with his stress.
“I believed my family was under severe threat and that democracy was on the brink of collapse.” He said that this kind of catastrophic thinking had overwhelmed him at the sentencing hearing.
He added, “I failed to fulfill my responsibility to America to preserve the secrets that were entrusted to me.”
Diana Toebbe stated that she should have followed her instinct and attempted to talk my husband out. However, my family’s problems continued and my depression reached an all-time high. She also said that she felt the country was in dire straits. I didn’t just fail him in my attempt to talk him out of this plan; I actively participated in his success, and I want him to succeed. It was absurdly my belief at the time that it would help me out of these difficulties.”
In February, the defense offered two guilty pleas. One for Jonathan Toebbe was sentenced to 12 1/2 to 17 1/2 and one for Diana Toebbe. Groh called them “woefully inadequate” and sent lawyers back to the drawing boards. Groh decided how she felt it was appropriate to sentence a second September proposal.
Because Diana Toebbe believed Toebbe was “driving a bus” in the scheme of selling secrets, the judge gave her a longer sentence. According to The Post, she tried to communicate with her husband through handwritten letters from prison.