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Retired admiral pleads not guilty in federal bribery case

A retired Navy admiral pleaded not guilty Monday in a Washington, D.C., federal courtroom to criminal charges involving an alleged bribery scheme that played out while he was still in uniform.

Retired Adm. Robert Burke, a former vice chief of naval operations, pleaded not guilty Monday, as did his co-defendants, Yongchul “Charlie” Kim and Meghan Messenger, according to their attorneys.

Burke, Kim and Messenger are each charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, while Burke faces additional charges of performing acts of a personal financial interest and concealing material facts from the United States.

“Adm. Burke is innocent and we look forward to presenting his case to the jury,” Burke’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore, said in a statement.

William Burck, an attorney for Kim and Messenger, said Monday that the government’s case against them was “so way off base it’s shocking.”

“We are confident they will get a fair trial before the court and a jury,” Burck said in an email to Navy Times.

A hearing will be held next month to schedule a trial date, according to Parlatore.

An indictment unsealed last month alleges that the retired Burke, 62, took part in the scheme while serving as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa from 2020 until his retirement in 2022.

Before that, Burke was the vice chief of operations from June 2019 to June 2020, and also served as the chief of naval personnel, according to his official biography.

According to the Justice Department, the alleged crimes started when a company run by Kim and Messenger, Next Jump, provided a training pilot program to “a small component” of the Navy from August 2018 to July 2019.

The Navy terminated a contract with that company in late 2019 “and directed Company A not to contact Burke,” according to the Justice Department.

But Kim and Messenger allegedly went on to meet with Burke in Washington in July 2021, part an alleged effort to reestablish the company’s ties to the Navy.

“At the meeting, the charged defendants allegedly agreed that Burke would use his position as a Navy Admiral to steer a sole-source contract to [Next Jump] in exchange for future employment at the company,” the Justice Department said. “They allegedly further agreed that Burke would use his official position to influence other Navy officers to award another contract to [Next Jump] to train a large portion of the Navy.”

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