CEOs charged with top Navy admiral fight U.S. bribery allegations

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Two top executives of a New York-based expertise providers agency charged alongside the highest-ranking U.S. Navy admiral ever to face felony indictment for bribery are combating the costs, difficult federal prosecutors’ determination to carry what considered one of their legal professionals known as a “politically motivated” army corruption case.

Charlie Kim, 50, and Meghan Messenger, 47, are set to plead not responsible Monday in Washington, D.C., with retired four-star Adm. Robert P. Burke, 62, previously the Navy’s former second-highest-ranking officer and top commander in Europe and Africa. The three have been charged 4 weeks in the past with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery for Burke’s alleged settlement to award a sole-source contract to Next Jump and to assist it win future Navy enterprise, in alternate for the promise of a $500,000-a-year job and inventory choices after he retired.

In their first public statements concerning the case, legal professionals for the corporate and its charged co-CEOs criticized the Justice Department’s dealing with of the investigation, suggesting prosecutors have been fixated on touchdown a trophy goal.

“For 30 years, Next Jump Co-CEOs built an impeccable reputation for having developed some of the most well-respected leadership programs utilized by the U.S. Government, and it appears they are now unjustly caught up in a bureaucratic, politically motivated, governmental crossfire,” Messenger lawyer Rocco F. D’Agostino mentioned in a written assertion.

Next Jump lawyer Reed Brodsky, a former Manhattan federal prosecutor who co-chairs the litigation apply on the Gibson Dunn & Crutcher regulation agency, mentioned it was “very disappointed” in how the federal government proceeded within the months previous the indictment.

“We tried on multiple occasions to present evidence and witnesses to the government after one presentation, but surprisingly the government refused to hear anything we had to say, declining to meet with Next Jump’s counsel or even question Next Jump about the additional evidence we said we had in our possession,” Brodsky mentioned.

Kim lawyer William A. Burck, co-managing associate of considered one of Washington’s premier white-collar regulation corporations, Quinn Emanuel, has additionally joined the case. A former lawyer within the George W. Bush White House, Burck has represented a roster of high-profile Republican purchasers together with former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn and political strategist Stephen Okay. Bannon within the Justice Department’s Russia investigation. He additionally represented Robert Okay. Hur, the particular counsel who investigated President Biden’s possession of categorized paperwork after he left the vice presidency; and former Virginia first girl Maureen McDonnell, whose federal corruption convictions with her husband, then-governor Bob McDonnell, have been overturned on attraction.

“Charlie Kim would never put at risk — for any reason — everything he’s built and his standing in the global business community, much less for a contract that was at most inconsequential to his business,” Burck mentioned in an announcement. “To be clear, Mr. Kim vehemently denies any involvement in the alleged conspiracy or bribery scheme and has no intention of backing down. We are confident he will get a fair shake from the Court and the jury and that he will ultimately be exonerated.”

A spokeswoman for the D.C. U.S. lawyer’s workplace and the Justice Department’s public integrity part declined to remark saying, “We cannot comment on an ongoing prosecution.”

Legal specialists mentioned Kim and Messenger’s combative protection is putting as a result of prosecutors nearly at all times search to “flip” decrease profile co-defendants in conspiracy instances and leverage their cooperation in opposition to top targets like Burke. The protection claims additionally increase the stakes for the Pentagon and Justice Department, which might be anticipated to have an hermetic case given Burke’s senior rank and up to date setbacks in public corruption instances, authorized specialists mentioned.

“The Department of Justice hopefully has put its ducks in a row and has a prosecution that would withstand scrutiny, because these cases are very difficult to prove,” mentioned Scott Amey, basic counsel of the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group. “It’s very important for the Justice Department and the Defense Department to protect our contracting system, and to ensure the people we have at the senior-most levels aren’t thinking about lining their pockets or their future employer’s pockets.”

The Justice Department continues to be dealing with the fallout from its dealing with of the worst corruption scandal in Navy historical past, involving disgraced protection contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis, which was tarnished after protection attorneys alleged that prosecutors relied on flawed proof and withheld data favorable to the protection. U.S. prosecutors in May moved to drop felony prices in opposition to 5 convicted defendants and mentioned as many as two dozen extra instances might be affected by an ongoing overview of 34 prosecutions that included 29 responsible pleas.

Meanwhile, the Navy has confronted criticism that junior officers have been arrested and prosecuted whereas top brass have dodged accountability, as inside self-discipline for senior-most leaders is sort of at all times dealt with internally. Burke has mentioned he was launched to Next Jump in 2016 across the time the Navy was searching for to overtake its management coaching packages within the wake of the Fat Leonard scandal. He has mentioned that as Chief of Naval Personnel the next yr, he reached out to the corporate when the Navy confronted one other disaster over management and readiness breakdowns uncovered by two lethal collisions in June and August 2017 involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain, wherein 17 sailors have been killed.

Burke’s case “is critically important to the Justice Department to rebound from the utter disaster of the Fat Leonard investigations,” mentioned Michael R. Sherwin, a former federal prosecutor who served as performing U.S. lawyer for D.C. in 2020 and 2021. Sherwin lately represented a defendant in one other current federal Navy bribery case wherein prosecutors deserted claims of a $50 million fraud.

Virtually all federal corruption instances “are built on cooperators” to get to a top goal, corresponding to Burke, Sherwin added. The indisputable fact that Kim and Messenger are combating prices “tells me either the government made a run at them, and they refused; or prosecutors think the evidence against them is so strong — such as emails, text messages or recordings — that they don’t need them.”

According to charging papers, Burke supported a Next Jump workforce coaching pilot program to a small Navy element from August 2018 by July 2019 earlier than the Navy terminated a contract with the corporate in November 2019. That similar month, an aide to Burke directed the agency to not contact him additional due to “upcoming contracting actions” and due to his current promotion to Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Burke served a few yr because the service’s No. 2-ranking officer, from June 2019 to June 2020, after his predecessor unexpectedly retired earlier than taking up because the Navy’s top officer in August 2019.

Despite the admonition, a 16-page indictment alleges, Kim, Messenger and Burke agreed in a July 2021 assembly that he would use his place — then as considered one of 9 four-star Navy admirals — to award a sole-source contract to Next Jump in alternate for a future job, and to affect different officers to award a bigger coaching contract valued at or greater than $100 million.

Senior authorities officers usually are required to inform ethics workplaces concerning the initiation of job talks and to recuse themselves from issues involving a possible future employer, however Burke misled and hid his battle of curiosity from the Navy, prosecutors charged.

Burke’s lawyer, Tim Parlatore, has mentioned his consumer by no means accepted a job on the preliminary assembly and that he left the agency inside months of becoming a member of it in October 2022. Parlatore questioned the logic of the federal government’s allegation that Next Jump supplied a $500,000-a-year job to get a $355,000 award.

Kim and Messenger’s defenders inside the corporate agree. In paperwork posted in firm social media accounts and inside communications, staff say Burke misled Next Jump executives about what he and the Navy have been doing with the corporate, whereas telling them his actions have been permitted.

Burke lawyer Parlatore rejected that characterization, saying Burke “never misled anybody.” At the time Burke had critical employment conversations with Next Jump, he had authorization from the Navy, Parlatore mentioned, including, “Admiral Burke has done nothing wrong here, he’s been above board at all stages. There was no bribery, and we expect to go to trial and win.”



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