ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A former government employee accused of selling classified documents to China was ordered free on bond Thursday despite government concerns that he could flee the country.
Kevin Patrick Mallory, of Leesburg, Virginia, was arrested last week and charged under the federal Espionage Act.
According to court documents, customs agents found him with $16,500 in undeclared cash earlier this year on a return trip from China.
Prosecutor John Gibbs revealed in court that investigators found wigs, fake mustaches and other elements of disguise in a bedroom closet in Mallory’s home during a search last week.
“The Chinese government would have a great incentive to get him out of the country,” Gibbs said.
But U.S. Magistrate Ivan Davis dismissed the government’s concerns, and adopted the findings of a pretrial services report that concluded Mallory could safely be released pending trial under conditions that include home detention with electronic monitoring.
He also imposed a $10,000 unsecured bond.
Mallory appeared untroubled and even smiled as he entered court for his preliminary trial on espionage charges.
According to prosecutors, Mallory traveled to Shanghai in March to meet with two men who said they were employees of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Mallory claims he made the trip to sell white papers which he authored for $25,000, and his public defender, Geremy Kamens, said Thursday that it was only after his client arrived in Shanghai that he began to suspect the men he was meeting with were actually Chinese spies.
“After years in the Army and working for the government, he is aware of the tradecraft used,” Kamens said.
Mallory was so alarmed, his attorney said, he went to the FBI himself and consented to a voluntary interview on May 24, during which he told the agents everything he knew.
During the interview, the self-employed Mandarin-speaking consultant also turned over a device he used to communicate with the Chinese contacts covertly, Kamens said.
It was during the interview that the agents saw that Mallory had documents in his possession marked “TOP SECRET” and “SECRET.”
Given the sensitivity of what might be in those documents, U.S. Attorney John Gibbs sparred with Judge Davis as the men tried to determine what could and could not be safely revealed in the court’s open setting.
Only FBI Special Agent Steven Green, who signed off on Mallory’s affidavit, testified on behalf of the government.
Green, an agent for five years, admitted under questioning by Kamens that he didn’t know how successful the so-called “Shanghai Academy” had been turning spies.
Davis abruptly interrupted Green at this point and called the attorneys to his bench.
As white noise pumped through courtroom speakers, Mallory joined the attorneys at the bench while the men spoke animatedly for roughly 10 minutes.
Green was released from the stand as soon as the conference ended.
According to the affidavit, Mallory traveled to Shanghai in April, and was interviewed by customs agents at O’Hare Airport in Chicago after he failed to declare $16,500 found in two carry-on bags.
Gibbs held that Mallory’s possible lifetime sentence, his ability to speak Mandarin, his confessed knowledge of tradecraft and a possible desire by the Chinese to have him leave the U.S. as soon as possible, made him a flight risk.
“Are you saying that anyone who appears in this court, any former government employee facing these allegations should always be detained? Why wouldn’t pretrial services options work?” Davis asked.
Gibbs responded by offering a tantalizing preview of the evidence he’ll try to introduce at trial. He said while agents searched Mallory’s home, they found disguises, including wigs and mustaches, hidden in the back of a closet.
Davis cut him off quickly, saying such disclosures must first be presented to a grand jury.
Several of Mallory’s friends and family members were in court for support , including his wife and college-aged son, Jeremiah Mallory. Most of those present wrote character statements that Kamens submitted for the record.
“How many of these people knew of the allegations Mr. Mallory faced before they wrote these?” Davis asked.
“I’m not sure,” Kamens replied.
“Well, that might make a difference,” the judge retorted.
Kamens walked over and had a whispered conversation with Mallory’s son.
“At least two for certain, your honor, but Jeremiah says that everyone here knew,” Kamens said after he turned back toward the judge.
Kamens said in a court motion that Mallory enlisted in the Army in 1977 and his military service, including time as a reservist, extended through 2011. According to Kamens, Mallory was stationed in Iraq in 2005 and was captured and held at a checkpoint for three days, suffering injuries that require multiple surgeries.
“Mr. Mallory is the straightest of straight arrows,” Kamens said.
Prosecutors have the option to appeal the magistrate’s decision to a district court judge.