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Former Scientist Receives Probation Thanks to Mayer Brown Pro Bono Efforts

10 December 2008

Partner Marc Harris from Mayer Brown's Los Angeles office, have successfully represented Abraham Lesnik, a former Boeing scientist, in a criminal case involving the removal of classified documents from his workplace. 

Mr. Lesnik was charged with Unlawful Retention of National Defense Information as a result of his having removed classified documents, including some that the government claimed were classified as Top Secret, and keeping the documents at his home and at a commercial storage facility. Mr. Lesnik ultimately pleaded guilty to a single count of retaining national security information.

At sentencing, the government sought a four-year prison term and a fine of $125,000 in order to “bring the weight of the penal system crashing down on the wrongdoer.”  In what the Los Angeles Daily Journal described as a “rousing speech” and “impassioned defense,” Marc argued that Mr. Lesnik was a scientist who had mishandled national defense documents, not a spy, and urged the court to order probation -- a sentence that would be in accordance with similarly situated defendants. To audible gasps in the courtroom the judge agreed, sentencing Mr. Lesnik to three years' probation and a $25,000 fine.

“This was an extremely satisfying result in a very difficult case,” Marc  commented. “The potential exposure was huge, with the government initially proposing a deal that would have resulted in a 5-6 year sentence. We decided to take our chances and have Dr. Lesnik plead to the charges with no sentencing deal. Ultimately, it could not have worked out better.”

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