A federal judge in San Francisco has denied bail for accused spy Jerry A. Whitworth, citing the gravity of the charges against him and indications that Whitworth has access to large sums of money that he could use to flee if released.
In arguing against bail at a hearing Thursday, Deputy U.S. Attorney William Farmer said Whitworth's alleged espionage activity "could well have affected the safety of millions of people . . . It's the most serious crime on the book. It's more serious than murder."
U.S. District Judge John Vukasin said evidence that Whitworth may have stashed away substantial sums of money helped persuade him that Whitworth should remain in jail.
Farmer presented evidence that Whitworth, who was unemployed and living in a mobile home when arrested, had 40 charge accounts and 37 bank accounts and made a practice of purchasing cashier's checks with cash.
Whitworth is one of four alleged participants in a spy ring said to have funneled numerous classified Navy documents to the Soviets.
On Wednesday, a judge in Norfolk delayed sentencing a second member of the alleged ring, Arthur J. Walker, after his attorneys argued that the Oct. 15 sentencing date was too close to the Oct. 28 trial of his brother, John. John Walker, a former chief Navy warrant officer, allegedly ran the ring, drawing in his friends and relatives, splitting up payments and dealing directly with the Soviets. Arthur Walker, a retired Navy officer who worked for a Chesapeake, Va., defense contractor, was convicted of seven counts of espionage last month.
U.S. District Judge J. Calvitt Clarke Jr. postponed sentencing to Nov. 12.
J. Brian Donnelly, one of two court-appointed attorneys for Arthur Walker, said yesterday that he has no hopes of a light sentence for his client, although he believes that Arthur Walker was a minor figure in the alleged spy ring.
"We know there's got to be a significant jail term imposed," he said. He said Walker hopes that his sentence will give him a chance to seek parole later, "when all this hoopla will have died down and there won't be any politics involved.
"He's hoping for the best and expecting something less than that," Donnelly said.
It is unclear whether Arthur Walker will be called as a government witness during his brother's trial, expected to take about six or eight days after jury selection.
Donnelly said that while Arthur Walker is willing to testify for the prosecution, "I don't see why they would need him," given the apparent amount of evidence against John Walker. The Justice Department has said it would not recommend a lighter sentence for Arthur Walker in exchange for his cooperation.
A retired senior chief radioman, Whitworth is accused of providing John Walker with highly secret Navy codes and communications techniques.
Whitworth's lawyer, James Larson, has said that the government has very little hard evidence to back up the espionage charges and is relying on tax charges in an effort to bolster its case.
Larson had asked that his client be released on $500,000 bail pending his Nov. 12 trial, with at least half to be posted in cash or property.