Love as "Unindicted Co-conspirator”

US Embassy Beijing contractor gets jail time …

In January this year, a civilian contractor who performed work on the United States Embassy in Beijing, China, pleaded guilty to conspiring to make false statements about and concealing his frequent and lengthy contact with a female Chinese national.

Gregory W. Blackard, 37, of Houston, was arraigned on charges alleged in a superseding indictment returned Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009, and thereafter entered a plea of guilty to the first count of that indictment before United States District Judge David Hittner. Count One of the superseding indictment accused Blackard of conspiring with a female Chinese national to make false statements to federal agents about his frequent contacts with her over the course of a two-year period and taking steps to prevent discovery of the personal relationship while he was employed as a senior manager of a contractor performing work on the United States Embassy in Beijing. Blackard had obtained the high level security clearance needed to work on the embassy construction and received extensive training and materials on Standards of Conduct (fraternization policy) and counterintelligence programs.

At the hearing, Blackard admitted he had a two-year relationship with a female Chinese national which began in February 2005 and continued through June 2007 and knowingly failed to disclose his frequent and intimate contact with her as required on frequently requested and submitted questionnaires, contact reports and travel reports. He further acknowledged he and the Chinese national, an unindicted co-conspirator, used various methods to prevent the discovery of their relationship including the use of different entrances to his apartment, different meeting places, non-use of cellular telephones or text messaging (because they create a record), avoiding places where westerners might congregate, and constantly were on the lookout for evidence the Department of State Personnel Security Services could possibly use against them. During the two-year period, Blackard received more than $200,000 in salary.

On May 29th, Mary Flood of the Houston Chronicle reports on Blackard’s sentencing before U.S. District Judge Gray Miller. The court papers call Blackard’s love an “unindicted coconspirator.” His lawyer also asked the court for leniency because Blackard had never been in trouble before, was a good worker, a good father and a good son.

Judge Miller sentenced Blackard to the six months in prison and refused the lawyer’s request that it be served in a community facility. The sentence includes three years of post-prison supervision and 180 hours of community service. Blackard will reportedly remain free on bond but must report to prison when told to do so by the Bureau of Prisons.

I think he got lucky; it could have been worse. According to DOJ, conspiracy conviction carries a penalty of not more than five years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000 and a supervised release term of not less than three years.

Who can resist stories like this? Perhaps it is the human interest here or maybe it’s just that I’ve never heard of “love” called an unindicted co-conspirator before. It just seems so … so stupid to imagine that you won’t get caught. At the same time, it also seems understandable that somebody who is aware of the consequences would still go to great lengths to do this. He should have known better… right. But who can explain the crazy things people do when they are in love? Can you? As Patsy sings it, “worry, why do I let myself worry…” I guess that’s why there’s the regs, so one knows understand what’s at stake and not let oneself worry …

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