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A former Hampton Roads sailor convicted of attempted espionage

The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is pictured in the South China Sea on July 28, 2022. (Photo courtesy via Christopher Bosch/U.S. Navy)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) is pictured in the South China Sea on July 28, 2022. (Photo courtesy via Christopher Bosch/U.S. Navy)

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini was convicted of attempted espionage and two other violations of military law Friday, in a Navy courtroom in San Diego.

Pedicini was found not guilty the most serious charges - 7 counts of espionage mainly related to his time in Hampton Roads. The sailor was also found not guilty or the charges were dismissed for 7 additional charges of communicating defense information.

From February 2022 to April 2023, Pedicini was a student at the Surface Combat Systems Training Command at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center in Norfolk. He was trained on the Navy’s sophisticated Aegis electronic combat systems. Pedicini was a fire controlman for the Aegis system on board the USS Higgins. The Navy believes the sailor was approached by an agent of a foreign government as early as November 2022. 

Portions of the week-long trial were held behind closed doors, with the Navy citing national security concerns. Prosecutors still have not released the name of the country that approached Pedicini. His defense counsel said in court that the sailor thought he was writing research papers for a contact in Japan. He was represented by a military attorney. The Navy Judge Advocate General’s office in San Diego did not respond to a request for comment.

“This guilty verdict holds Mr. Pedicini to account for his betrayal of his country and fellow service members,” said Omar Lopez, director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. “Adversaries of the United States are unrelenting in their attempts to degrade our military superiority… Although the overwhelming majority of Department of the Navy service members are honorable and faithful public servants, NCIS stands ready to expose those who are not.”

Pedicini was arrested May 19, 2023, while he was assigned to the USS Higgins in Japan. He was taken to San Diego for trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 7. Espionage can carry the death penalty in military court, though prosecutors did not request that punishment. 

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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