The trial of three defense industry executives accused of making unauthorized use of classified information has been postponed because of a dispute over whether classified documents should be made public during the trial.
GTE Corp. Vice President Walter R. Edgington of Annandale, former GTE marketing manager Robert R. Carter of Mountain View, Calif., and former GTE consultant Bernie E. Zettl of McLean, were to go on trial yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on charges of theft, espionage and conspiracy for allegedly obtaining classified Navy budget documents without authorization.
The trial was postponed because federal prosecutors have appealed two pretrial rulings by U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris on the use of classified documents at the trial.
Prosecutors have asked the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Cacheris' ruling that there should be no restrictions on the use at the trial of a 1984 Navy budgetary document.
The government wanted the document to be made available only to the court, the jury and lawyers in the case and to have witnesses answer questions without addressing classified matters. Cacheris ruled that, once the document is in evidence, there can be no restrictions on its use.
In a last-minute move Friday, the government presented the judge with an affidavit from the U.S. attorney general alleging that introduction of the classified documents would cause damage to national security.
"I think it's a cavalier way to treat the court. I don't think it's right," Cacheris said, criticizing the government for giving notice of its objections only one working day before the trial was to start.
The GTE case is meant to provide a test of the Reagan administration's use of espionage and theft laws to restrict the release of secret government information within the defense industry. The government has charged that the GTE officials used the information in making bids on Navy contracts.