Pre-trial Hearings Open In Lonetree Marine Spy Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A pre-trial hearing for a Marine embassy guard accused of espionage recessed Wednesday without any decision on whether he should be bound over for court-martial and with his defense attorney asserting the government didn’t have a case.
″They called three witnesses today, and not one of them said anything in terms of implicating my client,″ said Michael V. Stuhff, an attorney for Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree.
Stuhff said the three witnesses had included a State Department official, whom he identified as Kenneth Kidwell, and two Marine sergeants who had been stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, where Lonetree was arrested.
″The government also conceded that there have been no electronic bugs found in the old embassy,″ Stuhff added. ″With that kind of situation, I’d say we’re just doing very well.″
The Marine Corps refused Wednesday to discuss the lawyer’s remarks, noting that the hearing had been ordered closed.
Lt. Col. John Shotwell, a Marine Corps spokesman, would say only that the hearing recessed at about 4:30 p.m. EDT. He said the hearing would likely be completed Thursday morning ″because we have been told the prosecution called three witnesses today and has only three witnesses left.″
Lonetree, 25, is a former guard who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in addition to the facility in Vienna. He has been accused of becoming involved romantically with a Soviet woman while working in Moscow and then allowing Soviet agents to roam the embassy late at night on numerous occasions last year.
Lonetree and his defense attorneys went behind closed doors at 9 a.m. Wednesday to hear prosecuting attorneys present witnesses and other evidence in a bid to justify the start of a court-martial.
During an earlier break in the proceedings, Stuhff told reporters his client had not denied having a relationship with a Soviet woman who worked at the embassy, Violetta Seina.
But Stuhff added he was prepared to present evidence that such fraternization was ″a very common accepted practice.″
″Among the things which will be introduced in evidence, we’ll have photographs from the Marine Ball in November of 1985 showing the NCO (non- commissioned officer) in charge with two Soviet women, one under each arm on a sofa, one of them being a KGB colonel, as well as a State Department official with another Soviet woman,″ Stuhff said.
Lonetree ″has been greviously and dangerously chastized, denigrated for engaging in something that he quite frankly was encouraged to do,″ the attorney said.
William Kunstler, another attorney representing Lonetree, said the defense had offered two legal motions on Wednesday, both of which were denied by the hearing officer. The first was a motion to open the pre-trial proceedings to the press and public, Kunstler said.
The second was a bid to obtain Lonetree’s release from the brig on grounds he had been unconstitutionally held for more than 90 days without starting a trial.
The hearing was held at the Quantico Marine Base, located to the south of Washington in northern Virginia, where Lonetree has been held behind bars since the end of December.
Lonetree’s arrest last December sparked an investigation that has unraveled a major sex-and-spy scandal. Two other Marines have been charged with espionage as a result of the probe and another has been charged with improper fraternization with Soviet women.
Wednesday’s hearing was part of what is known as an Article 32 investigation - similar to a grand jury hearing in the civilian legal system.
A military hearing officer, Maj. Robert J. Nourie, must review the adequacy of the evidence against Lonetree, then recommend to the commanding general at Quantico whether Lonetree should be court-martialed and if so, whether he should be tried on all charges filed by the Marine Corps.
Assuming Lonetree’s hearing is completed Thursday, Nourie will have up to three days to make his recommendation. The commander at Quantico, Lt. Gen. Frank Petersen, must then make the final decision on how the case should proceed.
Lonetree’s pre-trial hearings were recessed last month following the corps’ decision to increase the number of charges against him. Those new charges brought to 24 the number of counts against the Marine, including two charges of espionage.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the maximum penalty for conviction of espionage is death.
In a related development, the New York Times reported Wednesday the Marine Corps was having trouble gathering evidence to prosecute Lonetree and an alleged accomplice, Cpl. Arnold Bracy. The paper said much of the case against the two men was based on conflicting statements given by the two.
Officials who weren’t identified in the story were cited as saying the Reagan administration was now divided over whether to grant immunity from prosecution to Bracy to improve the case against Lonetree.
Robert Sims, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, declined to comment on that report Wednesday, saying only that the pre-trial hearings would decide the adequacy of the government’s case.
Stuhff, in discussing Wednesday’s hearing, said he had sought to have Bracy called as a witness, but the motion was denied.
Bracy, 21, of Queens, New York, was arrested last month. According to the Marine Corps, he worked in Moscow as a guard with Lonetree for about eight months - from July 1985 to March 1986. He has been accused of conspiring with Lonetree and of serving as Lonetree’s ″lookout″ when Soviet agents were allowed inside the building.
Bracy’s Article 32 investigation is scheduled to get under way on Thursday. He is also being held in the brig at Quantico.
On another matter, Sims disputed a report Wednesday in the Washington Post saying a fourth Marine had been arrested on suspicion of espionage and confined to the brig at Quantico.