Trial of Navy Chief Petty Officer Accused of Espionage Kicks Off in San Diego

The trial of a Navy chief petty officer accused of espionage is underway, kicking off in San Diego on Tuesday, court documents and service officials confirmed.

Chief Petty Officer Bryce Steven Pedicini, a fire controlman, is alleged to have committed espionage aboard the destroyer USS Higgins in Virginia and while in Japan, and was charged in January with the wrongful communication of defense information and disobeying lawful orders. The court-martial is set to run through April 19, according to the Navy's online docket.

Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for the Navy's Pacific Fleet, noted to in an email that Pedicini "has only military counsel and has elected trial by a judge."

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Records provided by the Navy in February showed that Pedicini was last assigned to the Higgins, which is homeported in Japan, but has been in pre-trial confinement since May.

Pedicini is accused of delivering two sets of classified national defense documents -- which are named only as "Article 1112" and "Article 1223" -- to "a citizen and employee of a foreign government" between November 2022 and February 2023 in Hampton Roads, Virginia, according to the charging documents.

The charging documents allege Pedicini broke up the two documents and delivered them both over several instances.

The charges also allege Pedicini provided "images of a [secret-level classification] computer screen to a citizen and employee of a foreign government" in mid-May in Yokosuka, the same Japanese city that hosts the Navy base and the Higgins.

Neither the documents nor Navy officials have provided the identity of the country that Pedicini is alleged to have spied for, but the charge sheet notes that the chief petty officer had "reason to believe that it would be used to the injury of the United States and the advantage of a foreign nation."

Pedicini is at least the third sailor in about a year to face espionage-related charges -- though the first in recent memory to be tried by the military and not civilian courts.

In January, Petty Officer Second Class Wenheng Zhao -- who went by the name Thomas Zhao -- was sentenced to just over two years in federal prison for transmitting sensitive U.S. military information to a Chinese intelligence officer. Zhao had sent more than 50 technical and mechanical manuals for various systems of the USS Essex and similar ships to his Chinese handlers, court documents said.

Zhao was arrested and charged in 2023 alongside Jinchao Wei, a machinist's mate who was also assigned to the Essex in San Diego and charged with multiple counts of conspiring and sending defense information to a foreign citizen.

Wei's trial is currently set to begin in December, according to court records.

Both Wei and Zhao are alleged to have received thousands of dollars for their alleged actions -- court records for Wei even note that the sailor "boasted that while other U.S. Navy sailors were driving cabs to make extra money, all he had to do was leak secrets" -- but no such information has been publicly revealed in Pedicini's case.

Related: Navy Chief Allegedly Shared Classified Information with Foreign National While Stationed in Virginia and Japan