Marine Sgt. John Weirick, a former guard at the U.S. consulate in Leningrad suspected of espionage, will not be court-martialed--but may face civilian prosecution, it was announced today.
The Marine Corps announcement said Weirick would be released from a brig at Camp Pendleton, Calif., because a two-year statute of limitation for a court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Conduct had expired. However, Weirick's case was referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution under federal law, which does not contain the military statute of limitation.
Weirick, 24, of Eureka, Calif., has been held since April 7 in the brig for alleged offenses in 1982. A Marine spokesman said Weirick would be released today or Thursday.
The announcement said Weirick had been held in custody until the Marine Corps determined whether it could charge him with any alleged acts of espionage that occurred within the two-year statute of limitation period. Once prosecutors determined they could not legally press charges under military law, they decided to release Weirick.
A Marine spokesman said Weirick would be returned to his unit and full duty status. "However, because of the seriousness of the alleged offenses, it is anticipated he will be recommended for administrative discharge," the spokesman said.
Weirick was among a number of current and former Marine guards at U.S. embassies and consulates in Moscow, Leningrad and elsewhere suspected of espionage in exchange for sexual favors from women.
He was arrested April 7 at the Marine Air Station in Tustin on suspicion of espionage and illegal contacts with Soviet women.
Weirick served as a guard at the U.S. consulate in Leningrad from Nov. 18, 1981, to Dec. 2, 1982.
Today's decision provided the second indication in just a week's time that military prosecutors are experiencing difficulty in assembling their cases against the Marine embassy guards.
Last Friday, a Marine general ruled prosecutors would have to forgo pursuit of the most explosive charges against Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree--the first guard arrested in the case--because they were based on hearsay evidence.