A former Washington defense consultant was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and fined $10,000 yesterday for obtaining a classified Navy budget report and giving it to the GTE Corp. in 1983.
Bernie E. Zettl, 67, who also was given two years' probation, was indicted five years ago in a case that served as the genesis for Operation Uncover, a federal investigation that turned up a widespread network of consultants and business representatives who trafficked in secret Pentagon budget reports in the 1970s and early '80s.
Prosecutors argued in trials that the information was used by major defense industry corporations to gain unfair advantage in competitions for military weapons contracts.
"I consider myself a very law abiding, patriotic person," Zettl told U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris before sentencing. ". . . I had no concept this was a criminal activity."
Special assistant U.S. attorney Scott W. MacKay disputed Zettl's claim, saying Zettl was "quite aware that he was subject to criminal sanctions for trafficking in these classified documents."
MacKay added that when Zettl realized an investigation had targeted him he "removed a set of classified documents from his safe and burned them."
GTE pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the Zettl case and agreed to pay $580,000 in damages. Charges against two GTE employees indicted with Zettl were dropped.
Five major defense firms pleaded guilty in Operation Uncover and agreed to pay $14.9 million in fines and damages. Six corporate officials were convicted or pleaded guilty.