Judge: Ex-CIA officer spy case too complex for speedy trial

HONOLULU — A case against a former CIA officer accused of spying for China is too complex for a trial to happen until at least September 2021, a judge ruled Thursday.

Prosecutors asked the judge to declare the case complex against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, a former CIA officer and contract linguist for the FBI. He was arrested in August after an undercover operation in which prosecutors say he accepted thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for his past espionage activities. He told a law enforcement officer who was posing as a Chinese intelligence officer that he wanted to see the “motherland” succeed and that he was eager to resume helping China after the coronavirus pandemic subsided, prosecutors said.

The case is “so unusual and so complex that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation” for a trial to happen anytime soon, said U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield.

Much of the evidence is classified at secret or top-secret levels, Mansfield said.

“We don’t oppose this motion. It’s clearly a complex case,” said Ma’s defense attorney, Birney Bervar.

Declaring the case complex means that Ma waives his speedy trial rights.

“All I want is a fair trial,” Ma said by phone from the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

Later Thursday, Bervar filed a motion asking for reconsideration of an order detaining Ma pending trial.

Ma’s relatives are offering $1,060,000 in cash and mortgages to allow him to be released to his sister and brother-in-law, the motion said.

His niece, Yvonne Lau, wrote a letter on his behalf, saying she is willing to pledge $500,000 equity in her east Honolulu home to ensure he doesn’t flee.

“His family is here in the United States and I do not believe he would ever leave his family behind to escape to China as the government alleged,” wrote Lau, who is interim executive director of the Hawaii State Public Charter School Commission and an attorney.

It’s not clear when a judge will rule on the motion.


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