Spy Declares Her, Miller’s Innocence
Convicted Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova, proclaiming that former FBI Agent Richard W. Miller “is not a traitor of his country,” declared in an emotional speech disclosed by a federal judge Friday that she and Miller are innocent of any espionage activity and actually were working together on behalf of the United States.
In one of the most chaotic days of 18 months of unpredictable court proceedings in the Miller spy case, U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon first disclosed Ogorodnikova’s dramatic disavowal of an earlier confession, then denied a motion by her court-appointed attorneys to withdraw from the case and threatened instead to jail one of Miller’s lawyers for possible “corruption of justice.”
After a week dominated by mysterious meetings involving Ogorodnikova, the judge, the defense and prosecution lawyers involved in the case and two outside attorneys, Kenyon attempted to end the courtroom confusion by slowly reading a statement that Ogorodnikova made privately in his chambers Thursday in the presence of Kenyon and most of the lawyers--partly in Russian and partly in broken English.
“Your honor, we are not guilty this crime,” the judge quoted Ogorodnikova. “Richard is not a traitor of his country. I am not Russian spy. I was helping government. This is true, your honor. We are not guilty in this crime. . . . Hands are clear. I’m not take no one documents.”
Ogorodnikova, 35, pleaded guilty last June to conspiring with Miller and her husband, Nikolai, to pass secret FBI documents to the Soviet Union, agreeing during her guilty plea that she knew that she and Miller were acting “unlawfully.” As part of a plea-bargain agreement, Kenyon sentenced her to 18 years in prison and imposed an eight-year sentence on her husband.
Miller and Ogorodnikova met in May, 1984, and both have testified to a sexual relationship that began almost immediately. Miller, 49, the first FBI agent ever charged with espionage, is accused of passing secret documents to her to relay to Soviet KGB officials in San Francisco in exchange for $65,000 in gold and cash, a Burberry’s trenchcoat and her sexual favors.
According to Ogorodnikova, her decision to recant her earlier confession to Kenyon on Thursday was the result of seeing one of Miller’s eight children, his 16-year-old son, Tres, in the courtroom Tuesday at the start of her testimony.
Ogorodnikova said the boy reminded her of her own 14-year-old son, Matvei, reported to be living in the Soviet Union. After first reading Ogorodnikova’s statement, Kenyon authorized the release of a verbatim text of her words.
“I thought that if I would plead guilty, I would tell the same story (on the witness stand.) But when I saw his son, his face, I thought he was asking me--it’s hard to describe,” she said. “I think that be my son, could have been in his place and my son now doesn’t have parents. I don’t know what is awaiting for him in Moscow.”
“I want to tell his son myself that your father is not guilty,” Ogorodnikova continued, then shifting her rambling speech to her original motives for pleading guilty last June.
“They (government agents) told me that I was Russian. That they will give me the life sentence. . . . I was scared. And the jury will never believe me, and that’s the truth,” she said.
‘Inside It Hurts Me’
“It’s hard when they accuse you of something you didn’t do and you are innocent. And when everybody points at me and says I’m a Russian spy it hurts me, and all I can do is smile. But inside it hurts me and my soul hurts.”
In her speech to Kenyon, Ogorodnikova blamed her conviction and Miller’s arrest on the FBI, saying they were sacrificed to preserve the FBI’s image.
“I want to tell the judge I pleaded guilty, and my life is finished. If I come back to the Soviet Union, they will anyway kill me,” she said. “I am living now just to help my son a little bit to grow up.
“But I cannot--if I am in prison--I don’t want somebody who is not guilty to be in prison, too. This man (Miller) lied a lot about me, but it’s not his fault. He’s a very emotional man. They were putting stress on him in his office. I know that.”
Ogorodnikova’s statement to Kenyon had led Thursday to a series of mysterious meetings and a motion by her attorneys, Brad D. Brian and Gregory P. Stone, to withdraw as her lawyers on grounds that “an irreconcilable conflict” had arisen.
“Mrs. Ogorodnikova has recently made statements to the court which may be inconsistent with statements made by her and on her behalf at the time she entered her guilty plea in this case,” Brian and Stone explained.
The move by Ogorodnikova’s lawyers--opposed by Ogorodnikova--led Kenyon to meet with two other attorneys Thursday, Maria Stratton and Robert Ramsey Jr., both members of the federal indigent defense panel, in an attempt to find a lawyer to advise Ogorodnikova on whether she should switch lawyers because of the issues raised by her altered testimony.
Choice of Lawyer Rejected
After reading Ogorodnikova’s statement, Kenyon turned next to his meeting with Stratton, saying he rejected her as a possible choice after learning that her selection as the first pick had been “influenced” by what he viewed as improper activities by one of Miller’s lawyers, Stanley Greenberg.
“The court believes the choosing of Miss Stratton had been greatly influenced by Mr. Greenberg, with some help from (defense co-counsel Joel) Levine in calling around,” Kenyon said. “The court indicated its displeasure. At the least, it could have the appearance of an act of corruption.
“The court feels formal charges should be brought against Mr. Greenberg for an attempt to interrupt justice in this case. The court would find Mr. Greenberg at this point in direct contempt if it were not for the legalities involved. It is such a gross violation that the maximum fine would not suffice. The only alternative the court would have is a jail sentence.”
While Greenberg declined to comment on the judge’s threat of possibly jailing him at the conclusion of the Miller retrial, legal sources said Kenyon’s threat to hold Greenberg in contempt for obstruction of the administration of justice could involve a maximum $1,000 fine and six-month jail sentence.
Because the alleged attempt to influence the selection of a possible replacement for Stone and Brian occurred outside the courtroom, Kenyon could not act immediately. If he decides to follow through on the contempt citation, the usual procedure would involve a hearing after the trial.
After his denunciation of Greenberg--the strongest of several threats by Kenyon to hold lawyers on both sides in contempt during Miller’s retrial--the judge moved next to the issue of whether Ogorodnikova’s lawyers should be permitted to withdraw from the case, disclosing that he had selected Ramsey to consult with them and Ogorodnikova.
Another Session Sought
Stone then informed Kenyon that Ogorodnikova still wanted them to represent her, announcing that Ogorodnikova wanted another private session with the judge in the hope of persuading him that there was no conflict.
At first Kenyon expressed doubt that there was anything Ogorodnikova could say to convince him not to grant the motion to withdraw.
“It is the kind of conflict the court cannot allow to be waived,” he said. “I can’t think of any conflict that would be more clear.”
After a 40-minute private session with Ogorodnikova, however, Kenyon and Ogorodnikova’s lawyers returned to the courtroom from his chambers with a different decision.
“The court after inquiry of the parties had determined there does not appear to be a conflict of interest at this time,” he said. “Do you still feel there is a conflict of interest?”
“No, your honor,” Stone said, declining later to explain what had happened to change everybody’s opinion because of a gag order imposed on lawyer comment by Kenyon last year.
At noon, Kenyon, who has kept the Miller retrial on an 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. schedule since it started Feb. 25, called the jury down for a final hour of testimony by Ogorodnikova, who began an account of Miller’s alleged attempt to recruit her as a double agent for the FBI.
She is expected to repeat her claims of innocence to the jury and to substantiate most of Miller’s version of events in 1984 when she resumes her testimony Monday.
U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner and Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman will then begin a cross-examination aimed at portraying her as a KGB agent deliberately lying on the witness stand to protect both her son in Moscow and her chances of eventually returning to the Soviet Union after her release from prison.
While Ogorodnikova claims she would be killed if she returned to the Soviet Union, U.S. intelligence sources believe that the Soviet KGB would be forced to give her refuge if she denies any links to the espionage activities while testifying in the Miller case.