SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge Thursday rejected an attempt by suspected Navy spy Jerry A. Whitworth to win release on bail while awaiting his Nov. 12 trial on charges that he was a member of a Soviet spy ring.
U.S. District Judge John P. Vukasin denied a defense request that he set bail for the retired Navy chief radioman and denied a constitutional challenge to the 1984 Bail Reform Act, which is being used to hold Whitworth without bail.
"The people of the United States have the right to expect this court to guarantee his appearance for trial," the judge said.
As to the constitutional challenge, Vukasin said, "There is no such right to bail in the Constitution."
The government contends that Whitworth, 46, of Davis, Calif., conspired with John A. Walker, key figure in the purported Walker family spy ring, to pass classified documents to Soviet agents for 18 years.
Assistant U.S. Atty. William Farmer, in opposing bail, told the court that Whitworth "betrayed the confidence and trust placed in him by the U.S. government." He disclosed that Whitworth had 37 bank accounts and 40 charge accounts during the period that he was allegedly funneling information to Walker and said the accounts may have totaled as much as $500,000.
James Larson, Whitworth's attorney, who has alleged that the government's case is weak because it is based entirely on circumstantial evidence, denied that Whitworth would be a flight risk.
"He has nowhere to go and no desire to go," Larson said.
Whitworth had access to highly sensitive information while serving at the Alameda Naval Air Station at Alameda, Calif., as well as while aboard the vessels Ranger, Niagara Falls, Constitution and Enterprise.
Espionage charges have been filed against Walker, a retired chief warrant officer and friend of Whitworth, along with Walker's son, Michael, a Navy yeoman. Walker's brother, Arthur, a military contractor, was convicted of espionage last month and is awaiting sentencing.