Emails to New Zealand's highest-ranking military officers show there was support for Alfred Keating after he was accused of planting a hidden camera in a Washington DC embassy bathroom.
But our ex-Chief of Navy was one who was seemingly frustrated he could not publicly condemn the former top military attache to the United States, communications released to the Herald under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveal.
Immune from prosecution in the US but not from the New Zealand Police, Keating has now gone from distinguished commodore to convicted criminal following his sentencing this week.
A jury earlier found Keating, the former Assistant Chief of Navy, guilty of attempting to make an intimate visual recording of a person after a covert filming device was found in a unisex bathroom at the embassy in July 2017.
Keating, 59, was the face of diplomacy, negotiating and strategy for the Defence Force (NZDF) to one of New Zealand's most important allies.
However, it was just before and after Keating first appeared in court last year that the emails to top NZDF brass began.
Two days prior to Keating standing in court on March 5 an officer at the Devonport Naval Base emailed Rear Admiral John Martin, the former Chief of Navy, with what they termed "confidential" information about Keating.
The email's contents and the officer who sent it, however, have been redacted by the NZDF.
But in late March, just before the former commander of the Devonport base pleaded not guilty to the charge, and after the Herald first reported an incident at the Washington embassy, emails seemingly show Martin's frustration at not being permitted to comment on the case.
At the time Keating had interim name suppression and Martin was receiving legal advice from a lieutenant colonel working at NZDF headquarters.
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The emails and advice from the lieutenant colonel were redacted due to legal privilege, however, another email from a captain revealed Martin's position.
"Sir, I realise you want to demonstrate the Navy and NZDF does not condone any sort of actions as alleged and seniority does not give a right to bad behaviour - in fact it should be the other way around. I support [the lieutenant colonel's] advice," the captain, whose name is redacted, told Martin.
Two days after pleading not guilty Keating's decorated and more than four decade military career with the NZDF ended.
However, after Keating's name suppression was revoked in May 2018 and he was outed as the embassy suspect by the Herald , a further email was sent to some of the NZDF's highest-ranking officers.
This time a captain said Keating was "appreciative of the support that is being provided".
The message was sent on May 7 to Martin, Air Marshal Kevin Short, who was the Vice Chief of Defence Force and has since promoted to the top job, and a third person, whose name was redacted by the NZDF.
"Sir, I have just spoken with CDRE Keating and he has received [redacted's] phone message. [Sentence/s redacted] ... I gave him a couple of days after the media release to let things settle and breathe before I contacted him," the captain's email read.
"He hasn't been contacted too much by the media and naturally is keeping a low profile. We had about a 10 minute chat [further sentence redacted].
"He reiterated again he fully understands the organisation keeping its distance from him but still seems appreciative of the support that is being provided."
It is not clear from the redacted email what type of support was provided to Keating.
However, in an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald , Keating said he was supported by some top officers, whom he would not name.
He continues to deny the offending.
In response to OIA requests, NZDF Chief of Staff Air Commodore Andy Woods said at no point did senior military leadership advise or encourage Keating to resign before his appointment ended on March 31 last year.
The NZDF was not initially aware of who the alleged offender was, Woods said, but once the identity of the suspect was known, Keating was suspended from duty.
Despite specific questions under the OIA, Woods would not reveal whether Keating is eligible for or receives NZDF retirement benefits.
"For the protection of individual privacy, comment will not be provided regarding Commodore Keating's eligibility, or otherwise, for benefits," he said.
Woods also responded to the idea, first raised by a high-ranking Herald military source , of why Keating was not kept in uniform and subjected to an NZDF investigation and court martial.
"The NZDF considered conducting an investigation, however, given the nature of the offending, the primacy of the New Zealand Police and their active investigation, it was determined that the New Zealand Police would retain lead," Woods said.
"The NZDF does not have the ability to take jurisdiction away from the New Zealand Police."
But Woods indicated that had the NZDF held jurisdiction Keating would have been required to face a military investigation, opening up the possibility for what would have been a high-profile court martial for one of New Zealand's elite officers.
"Had the NZDF exercised jurisdiction ... Commodore Keating would have been retained beyond his engagement, suspended on pay. As he was already due to leave service with the NZDF, there is no benefit in extending that end-date," Woods said.
The Herald's source has said: "The punishment from courts martial are generally more draconian than those in the civil courts, for good reason."