FBI spy suspect pleads not guilty, trial setDecember 30, 1996
Web posted at: 3:20 p.m. EST
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Earl Pitts, a supervisory agent for the FBI, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of selling U.S. national security secrets to Moscow for payments totaling at least $224,000.
A federal judge set April 21 for a jury trial to begin after Pitts, a 43-year-old lawyer who worked for the FBI for 13 years, waived his right to a speedy trial.
Pitts' trial will start one week before that of Harold Nicholson, the 16-year former CIA station chief accused of selling secrets to Moscow for 29 months until his November 16 arrest.
Pitts, who sat silently through his 10-minute arraignment in a tan and gray jumpsuit stamped "prisoner," was denied bail. He and Nicholson were both being held in an Alexandria, Virginia, city jail across the Potomac River from Washington.
Pitts was arrested December 18 and has been indicted on 12 counts, including allegations of conspiring and attempting to commit espionage as well as illegally delivering classified information.
He faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, or death if certain statutory conditions are met.
Defense requests more time to prepare
At the arraignment hearing, Pitts' two court-appointed lawyers said they needed extra time to prepare their defense while awaiting FBI clearances to see classified evidence in the case.
Under federal rules a defendant's trial normally begins within 70 days after an indictment is returned, which in Pitts' case would have been no later than February 27.
But defense attorney Nina Ginsberg told the court that the FBI might take a month to give her security clearance.
She added that one of the assistant U.S. attorneys prosecuting the case had told her the government had at least 5,700 "interceptions" of Pitts' alleged spying.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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