No. 2 Nuke Chief Fired Amid Gambling Fraud Probe
The second-in-command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been relieved of his post by President Obama after being investigated for allegedly using counterfeit gambling chips at an Iowa casino.
Vice Adm. Timothy Giardina has been suspended as deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command since September, but his removal was officially announced Oct. 9 after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recommended his reassignment to the president.
Giardina is not currently facing criminal charges, but he remains under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for his alleged role in a June 2013 incident at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs.
Casino Workers Spotted Fakes
According to law enforcement officials, casino employees alerted the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation after suspecting Giardina of passing off at least $1,500 in fake chips during a poker game. Investigators soon notified Navy officials of the ongoing investigation, prompting NCIS to launch its own probe.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that the state concluded its investigation and turned the findings over to the Defense Department, but that it won’t press criminal charges.
“Considering Adm. Giardina’s lack of criminal history as well as his career in the military, we concluded there wasn’t any chance of him receiving anything other than deferred judgment,” said Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber. “We chose to let (the Defense Department) handle it.”
Using counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Criminal Charges Still Possible
Criminal defense attorney Stephen Foster told Lawyers.com that Wilber may just be waiting to file charges after NCIS concludes its investigation.
“It’s not unusual to wait and not do anything while another jurisdiction makes its case,” Foster said. “That way, you can take advantage of what is said or not said there. And if it turns out to be a weaker case than you thought, you can save some money and effort.”
But Foster also said he was “very surprised” the county attorney would decline to prosecute Giardina due to an expectation that a judge would offer deferred judgment to a high-ranking admiral.
“As a prosecutor, you have to do what you think is right,” Foster said. “I think you have to give the judge the chance to punish the defendant if you’re convinced he’s guilty.”
“When it comes to people in [high-ranking] positions — and this includes lawyers, judges, police and other types of public officials — they’re generally held to a higher standard. When someone gets a break for who they are, it’s usually someone very young or who has come from really difficult circumstances.”
Do you think Iowa authorities should be pressing charges against Giardina, or is it better to let the Navy take the lead in the case? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.