Richard Craig Smith, the former Army intelligence officer who said he sold the Soviet Union information about U.S. counterspies as part of a CIA plot to infiltrate the KGB, was found not guilty on all charges at his espionage trial Friday.
The jury of nine women and three men acquitted Smith on five counts--one of conspiracy, two of espionage and two of passing classified information to the Soviet Union. If convicted, he could have faced life imprisonment.
The verdict was returned after about 5 1/2 hours of deliberations. Smith’s wife, Susan, wept as it was read, as did several other members of his family, from Salt Lake City.
The jury got the case after Smith’s attorney, Brent Carruth, led them again through the defendant’s complex account of being recruited and later betrayed by a renegade CIA team operating out of a business front in Honolulu.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Aronica said, however, that the betrayal was strictly Smith’s. He said that the defendant, 42, fell deeper and deeper into debt after he resigned from the Army in 1980, and then resorted “to the one salable item he had,” his knowledge of U.S. counterspy operations.
Both sides acknowledged that Smith had met several times with a top KGB official, Victor Okunev, in late 1982 and early 1983, and was paid a total of $11,000.
According to the defense, Smith was victimized by a CIA team headed by Charles Richardson, a high-ranking agency official who sometimes used the alias Richard P. Cavannaugh.
Richardson confirmed during the trial that he left the agency under a cloud--he called it “involuntary retirement"--in 1984 because he exercised “poor judgment” in his dealings with a now-defunct Honolulu investment firm owned by Ronald Rewald.