Case against former sailor accused of attempted espionage draws comparisons to previous local spy drama

Posted at 9:44 PM, Dec 07, 2012
and last updated 2013-05-28 17:34:52-04

Yesterday, federal agents marched a handcuffed Robert Patrick Hoffman II into the Norfolk Federal Courthouse. Prosecutors say the FBI nabbed him trying to pass secrets about submarines to Russian handlers.


Neighbor of man accused of attempted espionage: ‘What the heck was he thinking about?’

Former sailor accused of trying to spy for Russia could face death penalty

It was the same courthouse, and almost the same circumstance, that played out nearly 30 years ago.

John Walker, members of his family, and a friend were caught by FBI agents selling military secrets to the Soviets. The 18-year espionage was so damaging that according to military experts, had the Cold War turned into a real war, the Soviets with our secrets would have won.

No one will say if Hoffman actually passed secret information to the Russians. His charge is attempted espionage. But like Walker’s case, federal authorities say it is likely prosecutors will add charges against Hoffman.

Hoffman’s 2009 divorce saddled him with debts.

Court records show he agreed to $1,234 monthly in child support for three sons, including twins.

He also accepted responsibility for the mortgage on the Virginia Beach house after his ex-wife left the state.

And, he agreed to keep up payments on three credit cards, and two loans.

On Tuesday, Hoffman returns to Norfolk Federal Court for his arraignment. The same building where investigators once revealed it cost the country more than a billion dollars to undo the damage from the Walker family.

Today noted defense attorney James Brocolletti was assigned to this case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirms prosecutors are seeking a possible life in prison sentence for Hoffman and not the death penalty.