Baltimore Sun

Couple facing espionage charge appear in fed court

Annapolis residents accused of selling classified details to undercover FBI agents

- By Justin Fenton Jonathan and Diana Toebbe

An Annapolis couple charged with espionage for selling classified informatio­n to undercover FBI agents made their first appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

Jonathan, 42, and Diana Toebbe, 45, appeared separately and without lawyers at the federal courthouse in Martinsbur­g, West Virginia, for brief hearings where they were formally read the charges against them. Detention hearings, where the government plans to argue that they are a risk of flight or obstructio­n of justice, were scheduled for Friday morning.

A criminal complaint unsealed Sunday alleges that Jonathan Toebbe reached out to an unidentifi­ed foreign country in the spring of last year offering to sell secrets, but the package was obtained by the FBI, which began communicat­ing with him in December. The couple were arrested Saturday in West Virginia after arriving to make a drop-off.

Jonathan Toebbe allegedly communicat­ed with undercover agents via secure channels, received secret signals and left memory cards with sensitive informatio­n embedded in a peanut butter sandwich and a Band-Aid wrapper at prearrange­d locations, according to the complaint. His wife, a teacher at the Key School in Annapolis, was observed assisting with the drops, the FBI says.

Jonathan and Diana Toebbe wore orange jumpsuits and face masks in court, and sat alone at the defense table during their separate hearings. West Virginia Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble said each of them had filled out financial affidavits requesting court-appointed attorneys.

Later in the day, records showed assistant public defender Nicholas Compton has been appointed to represent Jonathan Toebbe. Compton said his office’s policy prohibited him from speaking to the media. No attorney was listed late Tuesday for Diana Toebbe.

Because the Toebbes were charged through complaint and not a grand jury indictment, Trumble said they are entitled to a preliminar­y examinatio­n hearing to determine if there is enough probable cause to support the charges. He scheduled that hearing for Oct. 20.

Toebbe, 42, a former naval officer, held a top-secret security clearance and had worked on projects related to the nuclear propulsion of Navy submarines since 2012. He was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors.

During the sting, Jonathan Toebbe allegedly provided informatio­n about the nuclear reactors for the Navy’s Virginia-class of fast-attack submarines, according to a court document, which he agreed to provide in exchange for thousands of dollars’ worth of cryptocurr­ency.

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