BALTIMORE — A federal judge today ordered separate espionage trials for John A. Walker Jr., accused of leading a family spy ring which sold Navy secrets to the Soviet Union, and his son, Michael.
When the Walkers were arrested last May, federal prosecutors said they planned to try them together. But the two later requested separate trials, and the U.S. attorney's office did not object.
U.S. District Judge Alexander Harvey II granted the request at the start of a two-day hearing on dozens of pretrial motions.
He said that John Walker will be tried Oct. 28, the date previously set for a joint trial, and that Michael Walker's trial will follow immediately. No specific date was set, nor was there an estimate of how long the first trial will take.
In a five-day non-jury trial last week in Virginia, John Walker's 50-year-old brother, Arthur, was convicted of espionage.
John Walker, 48, of Norfolk, Va., was arrested May 20 after being accused of dropping about 120 "secret" or "confidential" Navy documents in the Maryland countryside outside Washington.
His 22-year-old son, a sailor aboard the Nimitz, was charged two days later with espionage after investigators allegedly found a 15-pound box of classified documents next to his bunk. Michael Walker was accused of passing such documents to his father.
John Walker's request for a separate trial was based on the possibility that his defense would suffer if incriminating statements purportedly made by his son were permitted in the trial.
Michael Walker's lawyers said his case would also be prejudiced by a joint trial with his father because such a trial probably would include evidence that would be inadmissible against Michael alone.
In addition to the Walkers, Jerry A. Whitworth of Davis, Calif., a friend of John Walker, has also been charged with espionage in the case. Whitworth's trial was set today for Nov. 12