Chinese student sentenced to one year for taking photos of Florida naval station
MIAMI — Zhao Qianli says he’s a musicology student from China who traveled to the United States for a summer exchange program. After he finished his studies in September, he booked a flight to Miami and then headed for Key West.
But rather than see the Hemingway House and other sights, Qianli got caught by Key West police for trespassing onto the high-security Naval Air Station. He later told federal authorities that he lost his way on the tourist trail and did not realize it was a military base.
Investigators found photos and videos on Qianli’s smartphone as well as on his digital camera that he had taken of government buildings and a Defense Department antenna field on the military base.
Qianli, 20, who is being held in Monroe County Jail, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of photographing defense installations at the Key West military facility and was sentenced to one year in prison by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore. The judge gave him the maximum sentence, which was higher than the sentencing guidelines between zero and six months. The U.S. attorney’s office sought nine months in prison.
Five other counts in his indictment were dismissed as part of Qianli’s plea deal. He made his appearance via a remote video hookup from the federal courthouse in Key West, with his defense attorney by his side. He admitted through a Chinese interpreter that he took the unlawful photos on Sept. 26 while trespassing the restricted grounds of the Naval Air Station, but expressed no remorse.
Although federal authorities charged Qianli with photographing defense installations, they implied in court filings and during Tuesday’s hearing that he was not just a tourist but rather a possible spy for the Chinese government who lied when he was questioned by FBI agents after his arrest.
Federal prosecutor Michael Sherwin …read more
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