Convicted Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova testified on Tuesday that she and former FBI Agent Richard W. Miller had no thoughts of espionage and were only looking for a “good time” when they began a fateful, drunken trip to the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco two years ago.
Testifying as the star witness in Miller’s espionage retrial, Ogorodnikova substantiated Miller’s story at her trial last year that they had a back seat full of wine and whiskey with them on the trip but no secret FBI documents to hand over to the Soviet Union.
She testified that her only purpose for traveling to San Francisco in August, 1984, was to “pick up” some Soviet movies to show to the Russian emigre community in Los Angeles. She added that she had invited two other friends to join her on the trip, before even mentioning it to Miller.
Miller told the FBI before his Oct. 2, 1984, arrest that he took two secret FBI documents with him on the trip to San Francisco, leaving them in his car along with his FBI credentials for Ogorodnikova to take into the consulate to pass to the Soviet KGB.
Since his arrest, however, he has denied ever handing over any documents or his credentials to Ogorodnikova. He said he made his initial statements only because the FBI “confused” him during the five-day interrogation period that preceded his arrest as the first agent ever charged with espionage.
Questioned by Stanley Greenberg, one of Miller’s two defense lawyers, Ogorodnikova denied Tuesday that Miller had given her anything to pass to the Soviets. This directly contradicted her guilty plea to espionage conspiracy last June, when she admitted taking a “handwritten note” from Miller and Miller’s FBI credentials into the consulate.
“What if anything did Mr. Miller give you?” Greenberg asked.
“He didn’t give me anything,” she replied.
“Did you have Mr. Miller’s credentials with you when you went into the consulate?”
“Did you have any classified documents of the FBI with you when you went to the consulate?” Greenberg continued.
“No,” she replied.
Ogorodnikova, 35, now serving an 18-year prison term, said last June 26 during her guilty plea that the purpose of the consulate visit was to arrange a meeting between Miller and Soviet intelligence personnel.
However, after taking the stand in Miller’s retrial last week, Ogorodnikova disavowed her guilty plea and proclaimed that neither she nor Miller had ever intended to harm U.S. national security.
She said she mentioned the trip to Miller only after one Soviet immigrant friend had told her he could not travel with her because of “car problems,” while another was too busy “suing” somebody.
“Miller asked me to go,” she said. “I told Miller I was going to San Francisco to pick up the film. That’s all.
“He said he was not busy at that moment and he hasn’t been in San Francisco for about five years, since Patty Hearst, and he could go with me.”
Miller, 49, who was one of hundreds of FBI agents involved in the search for the kidnaped newspaper heiress in 1974 and 1975, sat quietly through most of Ogorodnikova’s testimony but showed more interest than usual as she discussed their drinking on the drive to and from San Francisco.
During the trial of Ogorodnikova and her husband, Nikolai, now serving eight years in prison for espionage conspiracy, Miller testified that he had never had a drink until the trip to the consulate and was not “on all eight cylinders” during the excursion.
“I did drink quite a bit on that whole trip, because she brought cognac and margaritas,” Miller testified June 4. “I had no perspective and total loss of where I was.”
Ogorodnikova, involved in a sexual relationship with Miller during 1984, confirmed Miller’s account that they stayed in a motel on the trip to San Francisco and drank so much that they arrived at the consulate five hours late.
She said that Boris Beliakov, the Soviet vice consul, who had been planning to meet her Aug. 25, had left before she ever got to the consulate. Instead of picking up the films she allegedly wanted to obtain, she settled for returning film canisters she had brought to exchange for new films and borrowed some “pills” for a hangover.
“There was a man (inside the consulate) who told me he was a guard,” she said. “He said Beliakov had been waiting for me since morning. I had a headache. He gave me two pills. I wasn’t there a long time. He couldn’t give me films without permission.”
Adding to the boozy image of the trip, Ogorodnikova said she could not remember what they were drinking but recalled throwing empty bottles onto the highway on the trip home.
“Did one of you drink more than the other?” Greenberg asked.
“I didn’t count,” she said.
Ogorodnikova is expected to continue to testify for the rest of this week and the early days of next week. A tough cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman is anticipated, after Greenberg concludes his direct examination today or Thursday.