Judge allows halfway house for defence contractor

HONOLULU - A defence contractor accused of giving military secrets to his Chinese girlfriend will be allowed to stay at a halfway house while he awaits trial, a judge ruled Monday.

Conditions can be imposed on Benjamin Bishop's release that would address concerns about him being a flight risk and posing a danger to the community, US District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said.

She directed court officials to put Bishop on the waiting list for a bed at the Mahoney Hale halfway house near downtown Honolulu.

Kobayashi said she will hold a hearing to determine the conditions of Bishop's release once bed space becomes available.

Bishop will remain in federal detention until then.

Federal investigators say Bishop, 59, told his 27-year-old girlfriend secrets about US war plans, nuclear weapons and missile defence.

Assistant US Attorney Ken Sorenson has argued that Bishop poses a threat to national security because he could divulge defense secrets if he is released before trial.

Sorenson told the judge at a hearing Friday that Bishop would likely get hold of a cellphone or get on the Internet at Mahoney Hale, and there was a chance he would use the technology to disclose secrets.

But Kobayashi, in an outline of her ruling, said conditions imposed on Bishop could include "restrictions on communication and physically leaving the premises, as well as third-party custodianship and other conditions to be determined." Kobayashi said she would issue a full written decision later.

Bishop, a former US Pacific Command contractor, has been charged with one count of communicating defense information to a person not entitled to receive it, and one count of unlawfully retaining defense documents and plans.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

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