Editor’s Note: The above video is from Aug. 6, 2022, the day a federal judge rejected the plea agreements of Jonathan and Diana Toebbe.
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (DC News Now) — A husband and wife who had plea agreements in place with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia withdrew their guilty pleas and will stand trial on espionage charges.
A federal judge rejected the plea agreements of Jonathan and Diana Toebbe on Aug. 16, saying she did not think the punishments outlined in the agreements addressed the severity of the crimes charged.
Jonathan Toebbe, 43, and Diana, 46, were accused of selling Navy secrets to a foreign country. Prosecutors said although the Toebbes thought they were dealing with someone from that country, they were, in fact, making arrangements with an undercover agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Investigators said that Toebbe had access to sensitive military information in his role as nuclear engineer and that he communicated restricted data to the undercover FBI agent. Diana supposedly served as a lookout while her husband serviced three dead-drops. In one instance, agents said the restricted data was on an SD card that Toebbe hid in a peanut butter sandwich.
The plea agreement with Toebbe called for him to spend between 12 and 17 years in prison. The plea agreement with Diana included 3 years of prison time.
“This is very serious. You deserve life in prison. Usually I accept plea agreements. You were selfish, greedy, a harm to the Navy, the United States, the world. You compromised national defense, threatened critical military advantages, and years of research and development,” said Judge Gina Groh on the day she rejected the agreements. “You put the lives of 25,000 nuclear submarine sailors at risk, betrayed the trust that our Navy and nation placed in you. You did not act in the best interest of the United States.”
The court recessed on Aug. 6 to give the Toebbes a chance to talk to their lawyer before the case went anywhere. As a result, the Toebbes said they wanted to withdraw their guilty pleas. The judge granted the request.
The court set a pretrial date of January 12, 2023. The trial was scheduled to start on Jan. 17, 2023.