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Former Hampton Roads sailor receives 18 years in prison for attempted espionage

USS Higgins conducts exercise at sea.
Courtesy of Department of Defense
USS Higgins conducts exercise at sea.

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini was convicted of attempting to sell Navy secrets to a foreign power.

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Pedicini was sentenced this week after a two-day hearing in a Navy spy case, wrapping up his court martial in San Diego.

The chief fire controlman was charged with espionage, which can be a capital case in military court, though prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.He was found guilty of a lesser charge of attempting to sell secrets to a foreign power at his trial in April.

He was also found guilty of crimes specific to the military – Failure to obey a general order and attempted violation of a general order. In addition to his 18-year sentence, Pedicini has been dishonorably discharged and reduced to the lowest rank in the Navy.

“Pedicini engaged with the foreign government representative under the guise of writing research papers, a tactic increasingly used by foreign adversaries to obtain classified and unclassified national defense information,” according to a statement released by Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Pedicini was accused of making contact with a foreign power while he was stationed in Hampton Roads, from 2022 to early 2023. In Norfolk, he was receiving training on the Navy’s sophisticated AEGIS defensive systems.

He was later transferred to USS Higgins in Japan, where he was taken into custody May 19, 2023. He was sent to San Diego where he was detained until he faced a court martial.

The head of NCIS Omar Lopez called his crimes a “betrayal of his country.” Pedicini’s military attorney has not returned WHRO’s request for comment.

In court, his defense said Pedicini believed he was writing papers for a client in Japan.

Portions of his trial were held behind closed doors. The foreign power who contacted the chief has not been revealed publicly.

Pedicini is the third sailor to be charged with selling Navy secrets in the last year. The two other sailors were tried in federal court in California, where they were accused of selling classified information to China.

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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