In a move rarely taken in espionage cases, a federal magistrate Monday ordered Robert C. Kim, accused of spying for South Korea, released on $200,000 bond over objections from government prosecutors that the U.S. Navy civilian employee could flee the country before trial.
Magistrate W. Curtis Sewell said that Kim, 56, who was arrested last week, is charged with an offense that “could have serious consequences” and that “the weight of evidence against him is substantial.”
But Sewell noted that Kim, who became a U.S. citizen in 1974, had no previous offenses and was not carrying any “false or fraudulent identification” that would suggest he plans to flee. Kim must surrender his and his wife’s passports, restrict his travel to the metropolitan Washington area and report regularly to a court officer, the magistrate said.
Sewell ordered that Kim remain in custody for two more days to give prosecutors a chance to appeal the bond ruling, the first such release order in memory in a major spy case. Justice Department spokesman John K. Russell said an appeal will be filed. Officials also said more serious charges against Kim may be sought shortly from a federal grand jury.
Kim, an analyst with the Office of Naval Intelligence, was seized by FBI agents at a diplomatic reception last Wednesday and charged with passing more than 50 documents to a naval attache at the South Korean Embassy in Washington.
The documents bore markings that ranged from “classified” to “top secret.”