Spy Suspect Has Holdings Totaling $239,000 : Judge Questions Legal Aid for Walker
A father and son accused of stealing Navy secrets pleaded not guilty Tuesday as a federal judge questioned why John A. Walker Jr., the father, should have his legal bills paid by the government since he has holdings totaling $239,000.
U.S. District Judge Alexander Harvey II accepted the pleas from Walker, 47, and Seaman Michael Lance Walker, 22, and said he would meet with attorneys next month to work out security procedures for handling a large number of classified documents needed as evidence to try the men.
Harvey said he hopes that the two could be tried by late July or early August, but prosecutor Michael Schatzow said that preliminary matters, including the arrangements for document security, probably would delay the trial until September.
The judge also issued a temporary restraining order to prevent further public statements about the spy case by Associate FBI Director William M. Baker, the agency’s spokesman. Federal public defender Fred W. Bennett, who is representing the elder Walker, has complained that Baker has spoken too freely about the case with reporters.
The court hearing occurred as Pentagon officials said that they have no present plans to recall to active duty the elder Walker and his brother, Arthur J. Walker, who also has been charged in the case, so they could face trial by a military court. Although the Navy recently considered such a move, largely to protect the content of classified documents needed for prosecution, Defense Department spokesman Michael I. Burch told reporters:
“It is the feeling of our general counsel at this time that the case can be tried and prosecuted in federal courts and classified information can be protected.”
John Walker is a retired chief warrant officer and his brother is a retired lieutenant commander.
Under questioning by the judge about John Walker’s finances, Bennett acknowledged that the suspected head of the spy ring has assets of $239,000, including his home in Norfolk, Va., acreage in South Carolina, an airplane, a sports car, two boats, household effects and a gun collection.
But Bennett said that his client has liabilities totaling $64,000--largely mortgages on his real estate, automobile and plane--which bring his net worth to $174,000. John Walker has very little “liquid cash” with which to pay a lawyer and thus should qualify for public legal assistance, Bennett said.
“Mr. Walker has only $1,150 in cash in the bank and $2,400 in stocks and bonds,” he told the court, adding that the $1,000-a-month income Walker receives from his private detective business in Norfolk has not covered all his expenses.
Although Bennett said he knew of no other major assets, the FBI continues to search for a hidden cache that they suspect Walker may have from his alleged spying for the Soviet Union. Michael Walker has a court-appointed attorney, but he has few assets and there is no dispute over whether he can qualify for an attorney. Arthur Walker also has requested court-appointed counsel.
Judge Harvey said that he would consider a plan proposed by Bennett in which John Walker would reimburse the government for part of his legal fees.