Accused Soviet spy John Anthony Walker Jr. was placed on probation for burglarizing four Scranton, Pa., area businesses shortly before he entered the Navy in 1955, a fact noted nine years later by a Navy investigator checking on Walker before he received a top-secret clearance, according to court records unsealed in Scranton.
The records, which were unsealed on Friday at the request of the Scranton Times newspaper, show that Walker, 17 years old at the time, was placed on probation in the custody of his parents after accompanying another juvenile on a burglary spree in which the pair broke into two local gas stations, a used car dealership and a men's clothing store.
Walker's younger brother, James Walker of Scranton, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post that John Walker decided to enter the Navy in return for having criminal charges against him dropped.
"He was glad to get off the hook," James Walker recalled.
The burglaries took place on May 27, 1955, according to the court records. Walker enlisted on Oct. 25, 1955, two months after his 18th birthday. He was released from probation on Dec. 31, 1955.
The court records do not detail any agreement to enlist as a condition of being placed on probation. But they show that Juvenile Court Judge Otto P. Robinson, apparently assuming that the youths would be drafted, told them, "In a year or so, you boys will be in the service," and he warned them to disclose their records.
"The officer for the Army will ask us about you and we would like to say, yes, they were in a little trouble, but since then they were able to straighten themselves out," Robinson, now deceased, said at the time.
Pentagon and Navy officials said yesterday they did not know whether a juvenile record such as Walker's would have disqualified him from receiving clearance to see sensitive information.
According to the court records, a Navy intelligence officer, Milo A. Bauerly, checked the court file on April 6, 1964. In August 1965, while he was serving as senior chief radioman aboard the USS Simon Bolivar, Walker received "Top Secret/Crypto" clearance, giving him special access to code information.
At the time of the burglaries, Walker had dropped out of high school and was living with his parents in Scranton.
The records, in Lackawanna County juvenile court, provide this account of the burglary:
Walker's companion convinced Walker to go along on the burglaries after bragging that he had committed some earlier break-ins that netted him nearly $600 in cash.
The youths broke into a gas station in Duryea, Pa., but found nothing there. They broke into another service station and an adjoining used-car dealership in Old Forge, where they took two tires, $3 in cash, four quarts of oil, six cans of cleaner and a money box containing only papers.
The pair drove back to Scranton, where they broke into the rear of a men's clothing store but were prevented by a barricade from getting into the store itself.
A police officer spotted the pair. Walker's companion hid in the dark, and Walker ran to his car, which was parked in a nearby lot. The officer fired a shot at the fleeing car, missed and commandeered a passing motorist to drive through the neighborhood looking for Walker.
They found Walker stopped at a red light two blocks from the scene of the last burglary. Walker spotted the policeman walking toward him and drove off at high speed; the officer fired his service revolver at the car but again apparently missed.
Walker then led police on a chase, at speeds up to 85 miles an hour, winding through residential neighborhoods of West Scranton and out of the city limits. Walker eventually escaped, driving to Williamsport, Pa., 94 miles away, where he hid out for several days.
From Williamsport, Walker phoned a girl in Scranton to relay a message to his mother telling her not to worry about him. Two days later he was arrested by Williamsport police and returned to Scranton.
Among those who appeared on Walker's behalf at a later hearing before Judge Robinson was his pastor at St. Patrick's Church, the Rev. John W. Casey, who described Walker as "an exceptional student."
Reached at home in Scranton yesterday, Casey said he could not recall the incident. "I had to go to court for a lot of kids in trouble," Casey said.
At the hearing, Robinson warned Walker and the other youth that "this is a chance for you fellows to go straight. Don't make another mistake . . . . Learn the Ten Commandments, obey them, and you won't be in further trouble."
Robinson called the youths "just two crooks. The only thing in favor of you is that this is the first time that you have been in court."