updated 6/17/2009 8:31:59 PM ET 2009-06-18T00:31:59

A husband and wife charged with three decades of spying for Cuba want a judge to let them out of jail and confine them at home, without access to their sailboat and maps of Cuban waters that prosecutors said were evidence they planned to flee to the island nation.

Lawyers for retired State Department official Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, filed a motion for release from jail before their hearing Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton. Walton said he would consider it and respond in writing or possibly hold another hearing on the matter if necessary.

The attorneys said the couple would pay for electronic monitoring and Gwendolyn Myers' son, Brad Trebilcock, would ensure someone was with them 24 hours a day. They also would stay away from the Cuba Interests Section, just nine minutes away from their apartment in Washington, and their 37-foot sailboat docked near Annapolis, Md.

Prosecutors said the Myerses talked to an undercover FBI agent about how they would like to sail "home" to Cuba one day and live on their boat near the island, since no travel documents would be needed. They said the Myerses were experienced sailors and the last entry on a calendar found at the couple's home showed they planned to go sailing in the Caribbean in November, with no return date.

They have been held since their arrest on June 4. Their attorney, Thomas Green, said they are at Washington's Correctional Treatment Facility, a medium-security 1,200-person lockup next to the District of Columbia jail that houses women, jail overflows, a medical infirmary and other inmates in special programs.

Judge agrees on flight risk
Authorities say the Myerses delivered government secrets to Cuban agents over the past 30 years using a shortwave radio, by swapping carts at a grocery store and in at least one face-to-face meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola agreed with prosecutors last week that the Myerses should stay in jail because they were a flight risk. Facciola's ruling, which Walton could overturn, also said there appeared to be insurmountable evidence that they spied for Cuba, and the communist government would have powerful motivation to help them escape prosecution.

In their filing, the Myerses' attorneys cited the case of Asher Karni, an Israeli accused in 2004 of secretly sending electrical devices to Pakistan that could trigger nuclear weapons. Karni was allowed to stay on home detention with electronic monitoring despite substantial evidence against him and a risk of flight, the attorneys said.

"Just as the court did in Karni, this court can fashion a combination of conditions that would reasonably assure Mr. and Mrs. Myers' appearance at trial," their attorneys wrote.

Karni pleaded guilty to helping ship devices that could be used to test, develop and detonate nuclear weapons and was sentenced to three years in prison.

The Myerses' attorneys proposed that their clients only be allowed to leave home for meetings related to the case and that they post as bond their Northwest Washington apartment, their boat and $250,000 to discourage flight.

Handling classified information
Prosecutors filed a motion asking Walton to establish procedures for handling classified information that would be involved in the case.

Prosecutors said in their filings that Kendall Myers, who has a security clearance from his State Department job, can have access to classified documents in the case and "has a continuing contractual obligation to the government not to disclose (it) to any unauthorized person."

Walton addressed the couple, appearing in court in matching blue jail jumpsuits, to make sure they understood their rights. They waived their right to have a trial within three months of their indictment because the case is so complex and will involve classified material that will take their attorneys time to review. And they said they wanted the same lawyers to represent them, even though Walton warned that it might be in their interest to have individual representation for several reasons, including that they may want to present different arguments to the jury in a trial.

Green told reporters after the hearing that the case "could well be tried."

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