Military appeals court delays hearings in Navy spying case

Service to answer charges in alleged rights violations

March 17, 2000|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

In an unusual move, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces suspended grand jury hearings yesterday in the case of accused spy Daniel M. King to review allegations that the Navy violated his constitutional rights.

The five judges, in a unanimous opinion, agreed to delay the hearings scheduled to begin today and asked the Navy to answer the charges by March 24.

King, a petty officer 1st class formerly based at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, is being held at Quantico, Va., on charges that he mailed a disk with information about U.S. eavesdropping to the Russian Embassy in 1994. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

King's attorney, Jonathan Turley, argued in a brief filed last week that the Navy has prevented him from meeting alone with his client and has spread "misleading" information.

The Navy calls the allegations "attorney posturing."

After the court's ruling, Turley said: "These judges have acted to guarantee that there is not a thumb on the scale in this case trying to influence the outcome. In the military, there is no defendant more vilified than the accused spy, and it is essential that system extends him every protection."

In his brief, Turley disputed the contention that his client had given a real confession. Turley alleges that Navy officials interrogated King for 15 hours a day for weeks, so that any statement was coerced and didn't constitute a confession. He also said Navy officials have prohibited him from receiving basic information about the case.

The matter could embarrass the Navy if the judges agree it has acted to prevent King a fair trial.

Turley said he has not been able to meet with his client since March 2, when Vice Adm. J. S. Mobley of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet banned any communication between the two that is not supervised by a "security officer."

Roxie T. Merritt, spokeswoman for the Commander Naval Airforce U.S. Atlantic Fleet overseeing the grand jury proceedings, denied that the Navy has acted improperly. She said the security officer would become a member of the defense team and would not be allowed to testify against King.

But she said the officer would report any disclosures of classified information -- something Turley said would endanger attorney- client privilege.

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