Ex-FBI Analyst Who Kept Classified Info in Bathroom Like Trump Going to Prison in KC Case
Donald Trump addresses his supporters at rally before the start of the Kansas GOP caucus on March 5, 2016. Donald Trump addresses his supporters at rally before the start of the Kansas GOP caucus on March 5, 2016. Bo Rader The Wichita Eagle
A former FBI intelligence analyst from Dodge City, Kansas, who kept hundreds of classified documents at her home, including in her bathroom, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison by a federal judge in Kansas City on Wednesday for violating the same part of the Espionage Act that former President Donald Trump is accused of breaking. The sentencing for willful retention of national defense information was the first since a federal grand jury indicted Trump earlier this month, accusing him of hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, keeping boxes of documents not only in a storage room but in a ballroom and bathroom as well.
The sentence, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Stephen R. Bough, offered the first courtroom clue since Trump’s indictment about what the former president can expect if he is found guilty. “I cannot fathom why you would jeopardize our nation by leaving these types of documents in your bathtub,” Bough said. Bough, an Obama appointee, ordered the former analyst, Kendra Kingsbury, to spend three years and 10 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He ordered her to surrender to federal authorities to begin her prison sentence on July 21. Kingsbury, who had no plea agreement with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to two counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 793(e) last October.
Trump has been indicted on 31 counts, in addition to counts of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. A FBI special agent who helped investigate Kingsbury testified Wednesday that she had kept classified information, in both electronic and paper form throughout her home, including in a home office and bathroom. Her defense attorney, assistant public defender Marc Ermine, emphasized that some of the documents were electronic and that her home wasn’t full of “banker’s boxes” strewn about. Kingsbury, who worked for the FBI’s Kansas City Division, unlawfully retained about 386 classified documents in total over the course of more than a dozen years at the agency. While prosecutors didn’t allege a motive, a sentencing memo filed this month says Kingsbury’s phone made and received calls with phone numbers associated with the subjects of counterterrorism investigations. Kingsbury, who has been on pretrial release while the case has progressed, delivered an emotional statement before Bough announced the sentence that attacked the FBI and portrayed herself as the victim of a toxic work environment. During the hearing, her defense attorney emphasized that Kingsbury had self-disclosed the classified documents in her home and asked for probation. “I am guilty of being too honest without a safety net,” Kingsbury said. She also said that she was “working in a system that was never going to allow me to succeed.” Prosecutors said Kingsbury had kept secret documents — on hard drives, CDs and other formats — describing intelligence sources and methods related to U.S. government efforts to defend against counterterrorism, counterintelligence and cyber threats. The documents included information on open FBI investigations. Kingsbury was also alleged to have retained documents with information about Al Qaeda members in Africa, including a suspected associate of Osama bin Laden. Other documents focused on the activities of emerging terrorists and their efforts to establish themselves in support of Al Qaeda in Africa.
On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Edwards and FBI Special Agent Joel Feekes cast Kingsbury’s phone calls with the subjects of counterterrorism investigations in a suspicious light, though Feekes acknowledged during his testimony that the FBI has never been able to establish why Kingsbury made the calls. “There is no explanation that can justify her actions,” Edwards said. Feekes said Kingsbury decided to voluntarily admit she had stored classified documents at her home after coming to believe she was under FBI surveillance. Feekes testified Kingsbury wasn’t under FBI surveillance at the time, however. Trump’s case was never directly mentioned during the sentencing, though Edwards elicited the detail about Kingsbury storing documents in her bathroom from Feekes on the stand. Ermine cautioned Bough against sentencing her based on any other cases. “I imagine every case along these lines is going to be extremely specific,” Ermine said. Ermine had previously alluded to the Trump case in his sentencing memo, writing that Kingsbury’s case had garnered mention alongside prominent political figures whose conduct appears uncannily analogous to Ms. Kingsbury’s.”
While Trump and his supporters have cast the case against him as a political witch hunt, Kingsbury’s case and others underscore how aggressively federal prosecutors take security issues related to classification and information security. Former Air Force intelligence officer Robert L. Birchum earlier this month was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $25,000 for unlawfully retaining classified documents. Birchum, of Tampa, Florida, took more than 300 classified files or documents, including 30 Top Secret items, and kept them at his home, his overseas officer’s quarters, and in a storage pod in his driveway. And in 2021, former U.S. Air Force contractor Izaak Vincent Kemp pleaded guilty to taking 112 classified documents from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to his home. He was sentenced to a year in prison.