Prosecutors trying accused spy Jerry Alfred Whitworth may use statements Whitworth made to FBI agents before his arrest and evidence seized during two searches of his home, a federal judge ruled yesterday in San Francisco.
U.S. District Court Judge John P. Vukasin rebuffed efforts by defense lawyers for Whitworth, 46, the sole remaining defendant in the Walker spy ring, to suppress the use of the statements and the evidence on the grounds that agents had violated Whitworth's constitutional rights.
Among the items seized in the searches, according to court papers, were classified documents, voluminous financial records, and miniature cameras and film.
"They took everying except his underwear and the kitchen sink," defense lawyer Tony Tamburello said after the hearing.
"All the evidence that was seized in the searches can be used by the government," said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Farmer. Had Vukasin granted the defense motions, he said, "we would have had to seriously consider whether to appeal the judge's ruling."
Defense lawyers had argued that Whitworth, a retired Navy communications expert charged with spying for the Soviet Union, was psychologically coerced into talking to the FBI and letting agents search his Davis, Calif., mobile home on May 20, hours after the arrest of his Navy colleague and close friend, John Anthony Walker Jr.
Defense lawyer James Larson said agents barred Whitworth from answering the door or the telephone, prevented his wife, Brenda Reis, from entering the house, and threatened Whitworth that he would be jailed overnight if he did not consent to a search.
"The maximum amount of psychological pressure was brought to bear on Mr. Whitworth," Larson said. "He felt like he was a prisoner in his own home."
In denying Whitworth's bid to block the use of the statements, Vukasin said Whitworth had invited the agents into his house and had been informed that he was not under arrest.
He said that, even though it was not required, the agents had advised Whitworth that he had the right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer, and that Whitworth had "intelligently" waived those rights and made a voluntary statement.
Likewise, Vukasin said, Whitworth made a "free and unconstrained choice" to permit agents to search the mobile home.
While the details of the statements were not discussed during the hearing, Larson said later that they were not "terribly incriminating."
Whitworth, whose trial is scheduled to start Jan. 13, was indicted on espionage and income tax charges last week in the fourth indictment issued against him. Larson said he would seek a postponement of the trial, but not for "a large amount of time," because of "the sheer bulk of evidence in the case and the government's continuing to come up with new things at the last moment."
Whitworth is charged with receiving $332,000 from John Walker in return for passing him classified documents and other information, including "key cards" and "key lists" used to encode sensitive communications, along with manuals and design plans for the coding equipment itself.
Defense lawyers also asked Vukasin to block the use of evidence obtained in a second search of Whitworth's home May 31. They argued that the search warrant was defective because FBI agents failed to inform the magistrate who granted the warrant of their earlier search.
Vukasin said that while the absence of any mention of the May 20 search was "curious," including it would only have made the FBI's case for obtaining a warrant even stronger.