Biden, Trump, and beyond: Punishment on classified documents varies

The case against Department of Defense civilian employee Asia Janay Lavarello began in late March of 2020, when a guest at a dinner party held in her Manila lodgings spotted a stack of documents in the bedroom with U.S. classification markings.

Some of the papers were stamped “SECRET,” noted the guest, an official at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines capital, where Ms. Lavarello was serving temporary duty.

Three months later Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents searched Ms. Lavarello’s desk at a Hawaii military facility and discovered an unsecured handwritten notebook containing information classified at the confidential and secret levels.

Why We Wrote This

Some experts say higher-level officials are less likely to be prosecuted for mishandling secret information. Others argue it all depends on the details of the case.

On Feb. 10, 2022, she was sentenced to three months in prison and a $5,500 fine after pleading guilty to unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.

“Government employees authorized to access classified information should face imprisonment if they misuse that authority in violation of criminal law as Ms. Lavarello did in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors at the time.

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