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Lawyers get 90 days to review documents in NASA scientist's spy trial

From Paul Courson, CNN
  • NEW: Lawyers will have 90 days to review documents admitted as evidence
  • Stewart David Nozette is a former NASA scientist
  • Authorities say he tried to sell national secrets
  • He was arrested last year

Washington (CNN) -- A federal judge overseeing the case of a NASA scientist accused of trying to sell secrets to Israel has granted lawyers 90 days to review classified documents admitted as evidence.

No trial start date has been set for Stewart David Nozette, who has been jailed since October on allegations of attempted espionage.

Nozette, who appeared in leg shackles in U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman's courtroom, is accused of offering sensitive intelligence information to undercover agents he thought were from Israel.

Friedman also has been slated to preside over sentencing for Nozette's unrelated guilty plea earlier last year on government fraud and tax evasion charges.

Defense attorneys have been delayed months preparing for trial against the the astrophysicist while obtaining security clearances necessary to review various classified documents.

The delay was prolonged because there wasn't a suitable location in the courthouse to store and review the documents.

Nozette, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was arrested in October 2009 after a meeting videotaped by undercover FBI agents. The footage, played in open court during an earlier bond hearing, included segments in which Nozette allegedly offered government secrets in exchange for a false identity, a "kitty" of spending money and departure from the United States, possibly to Israel.

According to court documents, Nozette planned to reveal "information relating to the national defense of the United States, specifically, documents and information that directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack."

Nozette, who has a doctorate in planetary sciences, held sensitive positions involving U.S. aerospace research.

He had "top secret" clearance and served at the White House on the National Space Council for President George H.W. Bush, according to court documents.

An FBI affidavit filed with the October 21 indictment says Nozette, for about six years until 2006, did research and development for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Naval Research Laboratory and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The document says Nozette also acted as a technical consultant from 1998 until early 2008 "for an aerospace company that was wholly owned by the government of the state of Israel."

Nozette did not speak at Wednesday's hearing.