'Unusual Twist' in Sentencing of Submarine Secrets Couple

Diana Toebbe given longer sentence than her husband
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2022 1:31 AM CST
'Unusual Twist' in Sentencing of Submarine Secrets Couple
These booking photos released Oct. 9, 2021, by the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority show Diana Toebbe, left, and Jonathan Toebbe.   (West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority via AP, File)

The wife of the Navy engineer in the "submarine secrets" case got a longer sentence than her husband in what the New York Times calls an "unusual twist." Prosecutors had recommended three years behind bars for Diana Toebbe, but on Wednesday the federal judge in the case ended up sentencing her to 22 years, while her husband, Jonathan Toebbe, got 19. The judge said that while Jonathan Toebbe was the one who worked at the Washington Navy Yard on the nuclear reactors that power America's nuclear submarines, she considered Diana Toebbe to be "driving the bus" when it came to the couple's plan to sell the confidential nuclear propulsion information to Brazil. The judge also found that Diana Toebbe obstructed justice when she tried to send letters to her husband while jailed, putting prosecutors in what the Times calls an "unusual position."

Prosecutors tried to convince the judge to stick with a lesser sentence. But the judge painted the letters, which never actually reached Jonathan Toebbe, as an attempt to convince him to lie and say his wife didn't know anything about the scheme so that she could return to their children, who are now living with relatives. Per the judge, in contrast to that, Jonathan Toebbe spent his time behind bars teaching other inmates. "His remorse that he expressed to the court is truly genuine," she said. As for the Toebbes, they both made statements in court; Diana Toebbe's implied it was her husband, more than her, who was behind the scheme while Jonathan Toebbe's expressed more remorse as he described the stress, mental health, and alcohol issues that led him to believe US democracy was being threatened and he needed to get his family out of the country.

"I recognize now that I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown,” he said. “I am in anguish over what I’ve done. And I know I will never be able to make it right.” His wife said, "I made a catastrophic decision. Initially, I should have followed my instinct and tried harder to talk my husband out of his plan. But then my family’s difficulties continued. My depression was at an all-time high. And I felt like the country’s political situation was dire. I didn’t just fail to talk him out of it. I actually participated in helping him, and I wanted him to succeed.” Both husband and wife mourned what they've put their children through; CBS News reports they are 16 and 12. "Their lives will be forever marked by the decision I made," Diana Toebbe said. The judge had previously rejected the Toebbes' plea deals, saying they were too lenient. Three years had been the maximum Diana Toebbe would have faced under those deals, and her husband would have faced 12-18 years, per CNN. (More nuclear submarine stories.)

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