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Danger(s) of lying while holding a clearance
June 14, 2009 at 10:25 am #73901
From the Houston Chronicle
Secret Chinese affair sends Houstonian to prison
May 29, 2009, 8:11PM
Concealing a two-year forbidden foreign love affair netted a Houston engineer a prison term Friday.
Gregory W. Blackard, 38, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for hiding his affair with a Chinese woman while working on construction of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Blackard wasn’t accused of spying. But he was accused of leading a cloak-and-dagger lifestyle for two years while he and his girlfriend eschewed e-mail and texting, split up when they spotted Westerners, traveled together but left terminals in separate cabs and avoided entering his apartment building together or being caught on security cameras.
Before being sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gray Miller Friday morning, Blackard stood in his brown suit, took a drink of water and read a long list of apologies, including one to the American people. He also apologized to his daughter, who saw him arrested on Christmas vacation in 2008.
“I accept full responsibility for the consequences of my actions,” said Blackard, sometimes looking back at his parents or over at agents who worked on his case who all sat in the courtroom front row. “I’d like to recognize that what I did is not only a mistake, but a violation of the law.”
Court papers show that Blackard met the Chinese woman on a 2005 ski trip to Harbin, China. He said he followed “bad advice” from a colleague, who had previously dated the same woman, and started seeing her on the sly.
The court papers call Blackard’s lover an “unindicted coconspirator.” Blackard now calls her his ex-fiance and apologized to her as well as many others.
He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to make false statements. Having a high-security clearance to work on the embassy, Blackard was banned from fraternizing with Chinese nationals. He had lied frequently over two years when questioned about his contact, court documents showed.
Blackard also met other Chinese people through the woman and traveled with her to places such as Hong Kong, the Great Wall, and Long Mai Hot Springs.
His lawyer George “Mac” Secrest asked the court for leniency because Blackard had never been in trouble before, was a good worker, a good father and a good son.
“Mr. Blackard never breached security at all,” said Secrest. He said his client never intended or attempted to harm the United States.
“He was very much in love. This was not just a quickie,” Secrest said after court. He said the two planned to marry but that fell apart when Blackard was sent home after he confessed to his lies.
“The defense talks about love,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wright. “But the government sees this case as about the security of the United States and its embassy.”
Wright agreed Blackard was not a spy. But he said Blackard lied to officials for two years and only confessed after his boss offered him a promotion and he realized his affair would get in the way.
Judge Miller said he lost sleep Thursday night thinking about this case and worrying about getting the right sentence that considers Blackard’s otherwise stellar history and the seriousness of his deception.
Miller sentenced Blackard to the six months in prison and refused Secrest’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 remain free on bond and must report to prison when told to do so by the Bureau of Prisons.
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