SAN FRANCISCO — After he agreed to cooperate with authorities, admitted spy John A. Walker Jr. confided to a friend that he would "make up stories" and implicate Jerry A. Whitworth in the spy ring, the friend testified Tuesday.
The testimony came as Whitworth's lawyers began their defense. The retired Navy communications specialist's attorneys tried to show jurors that Walker, the key witness against Whitworth, is so untrustworthy that he cannot be believed.
Whitworth, 46, charged with 13 counts of espionage and income tax evasion, is accused of membership in a U.S. Navy spy ring headed by Walker, a retired Navy chief warrant officer. The government has described the spy ring as the most damaging to operate against the United States in 30 years.
In Tuesday's testimony, June Laureen Robinson, who was a partner in Walker's private detective business in Norfolk, Va., described Walker as a habitual liar who had committed perjury in previous trials.
She also said Walker told her after his arrest on espionage charges on May 20, 1985, that he would help federal law enforcement authorities unravel the spy ring he ran for the Soviet Union for 17 years. But she also said he told her he "made a fool out of the government" by getting authorities to reduce the number of charges against him in exchange for his cooperation.
Walker pleaded guilty to espionage last October and agreed to testify against Whitworth. Walker faces a life prison sentence, but his lawyers said he agreed to the plea-bargain in an effort to secure a lighter sentence for his son, Michael Walker, a Navy seaman who was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Robinson said Walker told her he would "make up stories for them because he said only he knew who was involved, and only he knew what the facts were. He could take anyone and everyone down with him. He intended to take Jerry Whitworth down with him."
When she was asked by defense attorney Tony Tamburello why Walker singled out Whitworth, Robinson recalled that Walker said, "He was running his mouth too much."
It was not clear from the testimony when the conversation occurred, or whether Whitworth ever attempted to implicate Walker.
Prosecutors did not attempt to refute Robinson's statements Tuesday, except to elicit testimony from her that she took the witness stand only after she was granted immunity from prosecution by U.S. District Judge John P. Vukasin. Robinson had been a suspect in the case, but the investigation of her is inactive, authorities said.
Robinson also said Walker lied in court before, when an employee in their detective agency was charged with illegal wire tapping. When Walker was called as a witness in the case, he testified that a tape recorder that had been used by the worker was not his when in fact it did belong to Walker, Robinson said.
Defense lawyers called a series of witnesses Tuesday, including Walker's half-brother, Gary, his daughter, Margaret, and a one-time fiance, Roberta P. K. Puma.
Gary denied that Walker ever suggested that he join in illegal activities, a contradiction to Walker's own testimony that he once tried to recruit Gary Walker into the spy ring.
Margaret Walker said her father wanted her to find a publisher for a book he wants to write about his life. She said she did not find a publisher for him, but is writing a book of her own about her family.
Puma testified, "I really don't think he (Walker) can distinguish between what is fact and what is not."