Attorneys for accused Soviet spy Arthur James Walker filed a motion yesterday to transfer their client's case to Richmond, saying it would be impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Norfolk.
In a memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, the retired Navy lieutenant commander's lawyers said the intense concentration of Navy employes in the Tidewater area and the "substantial adverse publicity his case has received" necessitate a change in venue.
The memorandum says that "the prejudice will be especially acute in this prosecution because the crime charged is of high concern to the Navy" and that statements by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. "demonstrate the importance of this case to the Navy and to the military establishment as a whole."
Walker, 50, has been charged with espionage in connection with what federal officials describe as one of the most damaging spy cases in decades. Those charged along with Arthur Walker are his brother John, a retired Navy chief warrant officer; John Walker's son Michael, a Navy seaman, and Jerry Whitworth, a California associate of John Walker.
Arthur Walker is accused of supplying his brother with confidential documents from VSE Corp., the Chesapeake, Va., defense contracting firm where he worked, knowing that his brother would pass the material on to the Soviets. For one set of documents detailing equipment problems on Navy ships, Arthur Walker allegedly received $12,000.
In the memorandum, Walker's lawyers, Samuel Meekins and J. Brian Donnelly, argued that "the media have assumed from the outset that the defendant is guilty and have revealed many factors which may not be admissible as evidence," including references to Walker's purported confession. An FBI agent testified during a preliminary hearing that Walker admitted turning over two classified reports on Navy ships to his brother.
The memorandum also said the Norfolk area contains so many Navy personnel that the prosecutor in the case argued in a pretrial hearing that it would be "unadvisable" to allow Arthur Walker out of jail.
Meekins and Donnelly also filed other motions yesterday that provided hints about the grounds on which they hope to defend Arthur Walker.
In one motion, for example, they asked the prosecution to reveal any information about when the reports that Walker is alleged to have sold were declassified "or scheduled for declassification."
Walker's attorneys have said in press conferences that their client did not betray any information that could harm the country's national security and that the information he is accused of giving to the Soviets was not significant.
Walker is scheduled to stand trial in Norfolk on Aug. 5.