John A. Walker Jr., right, in chains, is escorted by a U.S. Marshal as he returns to the Montgomery County Detention Center on Aug. 15, 1985, in Rockville, Md., after a pretrial hearing in Baltimore. (Ron Edmonds/The Associated Press)
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BUTNER, N.C. — A former American sailor convicted during the Cold War of leading a family spy ring for the Soviet Union has died in a prison hospital in North Carolina.
Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke says retired Navy Warrant Officer John A. Walker Jr. died Thursday at the Federal Medical Center in Butner. The cause of death was not released. He was 77.
Walker was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty in 1985 to passing secrets to the Soviets while he was a shipboard communications officer. Walker used his high-level security clearance to provide Navy codes, ship locations and other sensitive data in exchange for cash.
After his 1976 retirement, Walker recruited his son, his brother and a friend to keep providing the Soviets fresh information. All were convicted.