ANCHORAGE — U.S. Army officials could decide in February when to schedule a court hearing for an Alaska-based soldier charged with attempted espionage.
Army officials say 22-year-old Spc. William Colton Millay of Owensboro, Ky., transmitted national defense information to someone he believed was a foreign intelligence agent.
Officials have declined to say what country Millay believed the so-called agent represented. Millay, who faces life imprisonment, was being observed during the espionage investigation and no damage occurred, officials said.
Millay, a military police officer, also is charged with communicating defense information, issuing false statements, failing to obey regulations and soliciting a fellow service member at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage to get classified material.
The Army’s equivalent of a preliminary hearing is anticipated to be scheduled next month and could lead to a general court martial, similar to a criminal trial in the civilian court system. But it’s too soon to know when the preliminary hearing actually will be held, Lt. Col. Bill Coppernoll said.
Millay’s October arrest at the base stemmed from an investigation by the Army, FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Coppernoll said that’s where the closest military confinement facility is located.
When Millay was charged, Army officials said he “had access to the information through the course of his normal duties both stateside and on a previous deployment, and although the information was unclassified, Millay believed that it could be used to the advantage of a foreign nation.” Officials are not saying what time period was involved, but Millay’s attorney, Steve Karns of Dallas, said the allegations cover 2011.
Millay was assigned to a combat tour in Iraq from December 2009 to July 2010, and he served in Korea, according to information provided by the Army.
Asked if the investigation involved a sting operation, the Army is not calling it that, said Lt. Col. Jimmy Bagwell, the deputy staff judge advocate with U.S. Army Alaska.
Millay has not entered a plea in the case, but he says he is innocent, said Karns, who just returned from a visit with the soldier.
“He’s not depressed. He’s very cordial, polite and relaxed,” Karns said Thursday. “He doesn’t act like he has a guilty conscience.”
The upcoming preliminary proceeding is called an Article 32 hearing. An investigating officer will make a recommendation to Col. Thomas Roth, commander of the Second Engineer Brigade, which includes the 164th Military Police Company to which Millay was assigned. Options possible are to dismiss, alter or change the charges, or proceed with the original charges, likely through a general court martial, Bagwell said.
“It’s highly unlikely that charges of this significance would go to anything but a general,” he said.
Roth would then make a recommendation to Major Gen. Raymond Palumbo, commander of U.S. Army Alaska. Palumbo would have the final say in whether to prosecute the case or drop the charges.
If Millay is court-martialed, he would get to choose whether the case is handled by a military judge or a military panel consisting of five to 12 members.
Officials have said there is no connection between Millay’s case and one involving Army analyst Bradley Manning, who is accused of disclosing secret intelligence to WikiLeaks.
Millay began his Alaska assignment last May. Most members of his company were deployed to Afghanistan in March, but Millay was in the company’s rear detachment that stayed behind.