Lawyers for a lady who was arrested with her formal Naval engineer husband on espionage-related allegations contended that her desire to leave the US was motivated by Donald Trump and the right-wing political backdrop, not fear of arrest.
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe have pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an alleged year-long scheme in which the FBI pretended to be foreign officials in order to exchange encrypted messages with Toebbe in order to negotiate “dead-drop” locations and send $100,000 in US dollars in the Monero cryptocurrency in exchange for memory cards containing top-secret nuclear submarine plans.
The Maryland pair is charged with conspiracy to communicate restricted data and two counts of communicating restricted data, according to the indictment. They have been held in custody pending their trial.
A judge ruled that Diana Toebbe is a flight risk, citing prosecutors’ claim that text communications between the couple in 2019 and 2020 indicated her want to leave the United States. The messages were sent months before Toebbe and FBI agents began communicating.
“For some reason, the selected messages that the government relied upon at the detention hearing did not include the additional messages between Toebbe and her husband in which she explained the actual reason that she wanted to leave the country; that is, her distaste for Donald Trump and not because they were going to flee and avoid charges,” attorneys for Toebbe argued in US District Court filings on 8 December.
“As a result, the selected messages had the effect of making it appear that they were discussing fleeing for reasons other than politics,” they wrote. “Rather than scheming to escape capture and prosecution for crimes, Toebbe was clearly motivated to leave the country for political reasons. Specifically, the additional messages show that Toebbe, like many politically left-leaning individuals at the time, was intensely upset with the direction of the country under the former president.”
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe sold military secrets to a foreign power.
You know how I can tell their political persuasion?
Read every article about them – not one mention of their politics. Not a hint. Not an old social media post. Not a comment from a neighbor. Nothing. pic.twitter.com/nVV750YtJp
— Marc J. Randazza (@marcorandazza) October 12, 2021
Toebbe’s lawyers have requested a fresh detention hearing, and her father has stated that he is willing to provide a cash bond for her release pending trial so that she can “reunite with her minor children who are currently in the custody of family in California.”
According to attorneys, the document contains dozens of text messages, some of which were not previously revealed to the defense. Several participants debate members of the Trump administration, the 2020 presidential race, and FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump’s campaign.
“I worry that s*** is falling down. If we could ex-pat to France or something…,” Dianna Toebbe wrote on March 4, 2019.
While prosecutors called Jonathan and Diana Toebbe flight risks, the couple's lawyers said they wanted to leave the country because of Trump's politics…. https://t.co/9Dw1P96zXl
— SkyNet Platforms ⍟ (@SkyNetPlatform) December 9, 2021
“I’m not saying we need to flee now for safety,” Jonathan Toebbe replied, according to the filing. “We need to find a way to retire on a boat and cruise the world before we’re too old to enjoy it.”
“We need to get out,” Toebbe wrote on March 7, 2019.
“Where? To do what?” Toebbe replied, according to the court documents.
“To anywhere. To do something else,” she said, documents show. “To teach in international schools… to take Macron up on his offer to harbor scientific refugees.”
Jonathan Toebbe, a Navy engineer, and his wife, Diana, of Annapolis, Maryland, were arrested in October on espionage charges. https://t.co/vjvVDShl7Y
— Gaspare J. Marturano (@gasparem) December 8, 2021
“Biden/Warren will curb stomp Trump/Pence,” Toebbe replied, according to the filing.
“WE NEED TO GET OUT,” she replied, documents show. “Hilary was going to curb stomp trump. I’m done.”
Toebbe also addressed Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who pled guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy in a separate case and was convicted on multiple other offenses. Trump then granted him a presidential pardon.
“Baby, I don’t get what’s triggering this now – Manafort’s going away. The Mueller report is coming Real Soon,” Toebbe replied, according to filings.
‘Alleged spy wanted to flee U.S. because she hated Donald Trump, not to duck arrest, say her lawyers’
— Ramona (@desderamona) December 9, 2021
“It’s been too long. Nothing has changed. He’s still in power,” she responded.
“Nothing in government moves that fast – believe me, I speak from personal experience,” Toebbe wrote.
“Manafort got a slap on the wrist,” Toebbe replied. “It’s a signal that the entire system is rigged.”
Court filings argued that Toebbe “has reason to believe that her husband has also informed the government that she was not involved in his alleged scheme to sell classified information.”
The filings included a copy of a letter written by Toebbe to his wife’s father, saying: “I have high hopes that Diana will ultimately be exonerated.”
While prosecutors called Jonathan and Diana Toebbe flight risks, the couple's lawyers said they wanted to leave the country because of Trump's politics. https://t.co/CbdbEstrJ5
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) December 9, 2021
Jonathan Toebbe, who previously worked on the US Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, allegedly mailed a package of classified information to representatives of a foreign country in April 2020, with instructions for contacting him and an offer to reveal plans in exchange for up to $5 million in cryptocurrency, according to federal prosecutors.
It is unknown how the US government got into contact with the package, while court filings imply that an unnamed country contacted them; FBI officers obtained the box in December 2020, then pretended to be a representative from that country when they responded to Toebbe.
Jonathan and Diana Toebbe, the couple accused of trying to sell nuclear submarine secrets to an undercover FBI officer, appeared in court for their arraignment on Tuesday. If convicted, they could face life in prison. https://t.co/9Wlo8ndqlX
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 12, 2021
Toebbe allegedly arranged many “death drops” of memory cards in a bag with a peanut butter sandwich, a Band-Aid wrapper, and a chewing gun packaging over the course of several months.
On October 9th, the pair was apprehended.
Diana Toebbe, according to prosecutors, served as a lookout during each drop.
“Considering her husband’s statements exculpating her, plus the newly disclosed instant messages showing that she did not want to leave the country for illegal reasons, the weight of evidence against her is significant, if not totally, diminished,” lawyers for Toebbe wrote in their filing on 8 December.
“Indeed, the only evidence against her is that she was present with her husband when he made three of the [drops],” they wrote. “Of course, mere presence at the scene of a crime is not enough to convict a person of the crime. Thus, the weight of the evidence against Toebbe does not support detaining her pending trial.”
Prosecutors have not responded to the filing.