Related topics

Defector Ordered Detained In Philadelphia Brig

November 11, 1987

FORT DIX, N.J. (AP) _ A military magistrate ruled today that an Army soldier who defected to the Soviet Union should be detained at the Philadelphia Naval Yard brig for security reasons.

In a 15-minute hearing here, magistrate Capt. Brenda Pifer said Pvt. Wade E. Roberts posed a risk of escape and could have knowledge about sensitive military information.

Roberts, 22, of Riverside, Calif., dressed in Army fatigues, sat quietly during the proceeding as his civilian attorney sought an administrative discharge for him, which would avoid a court martial but would rescind all military benefits. The discharge would be ″under other than honorable conditions,″ military officials said.

Pifer said a memo she received from the Army showed Roberts had been absent without leave twice before, but neither his attorney nor military officials would talk about the matter afterward.

Roberts, 22, of Riverside, Calif., has been in Army custody since his arrest Nov. 4 in Europe and had been at Fort Dix from Thursday until Sunday evening, when he was taken to Philadelphia Naval Yard because the Army limits confinement at the Fort Dix facility to 72 hours.

Pifer ordered him held ″because of the sensitive nature of possible information he could have divulged.″

Roberts appeared disappointed that he would be returned to the Navy brig, which is a maximum security facility housing some prisoners charged with violent crimes. He would not discuss his case with reporters after the hearing.

″It is clear Wade Roberts is not cut out for the Army,″ said Roberts’ civilian attorney, Ronald Kuby of the law firm of William Kunstler.

Kuby said he and Kuntsler will discuss the next step.

″I think he’s being penalized because he chose to go to the Soviet Union,″ Kuby said.

Capt. Jose LeBron, a military attorney representing the Army, argued before Pifer that Roberts may possess classified military information and must be fully debriefed at the Philadelphia Naval Yard before any other action can be taken.

Roberts has been charged with desertion, and could face two years of hard labor if convicted by court martial.

Roberts said following his arrest last week that he was told by U.S. officials he could face a less serious charge of being AWOL. The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison, but Army officials said an AWOL charge probably would result in just a dishonorable discharge.

Roberts deserted his Army post at Giessen, West Germany, in April. He first fled to the Soviet Embassy in East Germany with his girlfriend, then left for the Soviet Union.

He told authorities he left the Army when his superiors complained he was spending too much time with his West German girlfriend, Petra Neumann. The woman, who is pregnant, did not accompany him on his return to the United States.

Although Roberts declared he was treated well in the Soviet Union, he said he now wants to settle in West Germany.

Military officials refused to indicate what the next step against Roberts would be.

During the hearing, Kuby called Roberts’ detention ″punitive and unnecessary.″

″To hold him hostage to this situation is unconscionable as well as unconstitutional,″ said Kuby.

Roberts enlisted Jan. 3, 1985, at the age of 1 and was assigned to three bases in the United States before being transferred to West Germany.

Following his arrest, his mother, Alta Worley of Apple Valley, Calif., publicly scolded Roberts for not apologizing to the Army and the country for his actions.

Update hourly