The prosecution rested its case Thursday in the spy trial of Richard W. Miller after six weeks of testimony that focused on a series of alleged confessions by the former FBI agent to interrogators and to a former girlfriend.
As the last of 70 prosecution witnesses finished testifying in the trial of the first FBI agent ever charged with espionage, defense lawyers announced that they will ask U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon next week for a directed verdict of not guilty on all spy charges lodged against Miller.
Attorneys Joel Levine and Stanley Greenberg claim that during the first 23 days of testimony in Miller’s trial in Los Angeles federal court, the government failed to prove its charges that Miller, a counterintelligence agent, had passed secret information to the Soviet Union with “reason to believe” that it would be used against the United States.
Miller’s defense since his arrest last Oct. 2 has been that he became involved with Svetlana and Nikolai Ogorodnikov, since convicted of being Soviet agents, last year in an effort to infiltrate the Soviet KGB and that his intent was to help both the FBI and the United States.
Before his arrest, according to several FBI witnesses and a Portland waitress named Marta York who was briefly involved with Miller last year, the former agent confessed to passing a secret FBI document titled “Reporting Guidance: Foreign Intelligence Information” to Svetlana Ogorodnikova.
Miller claimed before the start of his trial that admissions before his arrest about passing the document, also known as the FBI’s Positive Intelligence Reporting Guide, were offered primarily because he was emotionally upset and fatigued from five days of FBI questioning.
Miller is charged with seven espionage counts, including conspiracy to commit espionage. A second charge is that he obtained a copy of the Positive Intelligence Reporting Guide to pass to the Soviet Union, a third is that he communicated its contents to Soviet agents and a fourth is that he actually passed it to Ogorodnikova.
The remaining three counts against Miller are that he asked for $50,000 in gold as a bribe for handing over secret documents, that he requested $15,000 for a planned trip outside the United States to meet with Soviet officials and that he “agreed to receive, accepted and received” a Burberry’s trench coat in connection with the planned trip.
The defense motion for a directed verdict of acquittal, a routine legal move, will be accompanied when Miller’s trial resumes Tuesday by a request that the judge at least consider dropping the related bribery charges on grounds that Miller never received the money and that the trench coat was simply placed on “hold” and never paid for.
Anticipating the possibility that Kenyon may not grant the request for dismissal, Miller’s lawyers also indicated Thursday that they will ask the judge to grant protective immunity to Ogorodnikova so that she may testify as a defense witness for Miller. Ogorodnikova’s lawyers have said they will instruct her to take the Fifth Amendment on some questions if she is called as a witness without immunity. Her testimony would be crucial on the question of whether Miller gave her any documents.
Bargain Ends Trial
Ogorodnikova, one of 53 prospective defense witnesses, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Miller after a two-month trial that ended in a plea bargaining agreement June 26. She is in custody at the federal prison in Pleasanton, serving an 18-year sentence. Ogorodnikov, who also pleaded guilty, is serving an eight-year sentence at Terminal Island.
As U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner and Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman concluded their case, they called John Barron, author of “KGB Today: The Hidden Hand” to testify about overall Soviet intelligence aims and techniques in recruiting American agents.
“They’re looking basically for morally corrupt and spiritually defective people,” Barron said, adding that penetration of the FBI is one of the major aims of the KGB.
Among the other final prosecution witnesses was Richard Larkin, a retired Army general and former deputy director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, who testified Tuesday that the FBI’s Positive Intelligence Reporting Guide is a key listing of U.S. intelligence requirements.
“It’s in fact the playbook. It tells our intelligence players what the needs are and what areas we are ignorant in. It’s a very sensitive document,” Larkin said. “It would be extremely useful to the Soviet Union. It would tell the Soviet Union exactly what we are after.”