Spy Says She Told of Miller Link to KGB

Times Staff Writer

Convicted spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova disclosed Friday that she once told the government that former FBI Agent Richard W. Miller had met secretly with Soviet KGB officer Aleksandr Grishin while plotting to sell FBI documents--a meeting she now says never took place.

Her testimony was the first public suggestion since Miller’s arrest on espionage charges in October, 1984, that he had actually ever met directly with a Soviet intelligence officer while allegedly conspiring to betray the United States.

But Ogorodnikova, who has changed her story on virtually every key issue in the Miller case since pleading guilty to espionage conspiracy last June, prefaced her own disclosure by denying that the meeting occurred.


Change in Her Story

The 35-year-old Russian emigre now says that all her previous confessions were false, and that she only pleaded guilty to being a spy because she was “tired” and felt she had no chance of being acquitted of espionage by an American jury.

As Ogorodnikova returned to the witness stand for the ninth day in Miller’s espionage retrial, Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman continued a tough cross-examination focusing first on her present claims about her 1984 relationship with Miller, then challenging her with previous statements.

Hayman directed Ogorodnikova’s testimony to a trip with Miller to the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco on Aug. 25, 1984, and a stopover that night at a Holiday Inn in Livermore on the return trip to Los Angeles. He then suddenly injected the question of a meeting with Grishin.

“What did you and Mr. Miller do that evening?” he asked. “Did you sit by the pool? Did you observe any meeting with Miller and Aleksandr Grishin at the Holiday Inn that night?”

“He did not meet anybody,” Ogorodnikova said.

Denial Challenged

Challenging that denial with statements made by Ogorodnikova in March and April of 1985 during unsuccessful plea-bargain talks, Hayman asked her if she had told federal prosecutors, an FBI agent and one of her lawyers that she had seen the Miller-Grishin meeting.

“I told,” Ogorodnikova said.

Grishin, 35, one of a dozen vice consuls at the Soviet Consulate, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Miller spy case at the time of Miller’s arrest and was identified as a KGB agent operating under diplomatic cover.

In a series of telephone calls to Ogorodnikova in September, 1984, Grishin was overheard by the FBI discussing plans for a trip by Miller and Ogorodnikova to meet with Soviet intelligence officials in Warsaw the following month.

Shortly after the arrest of Miller, Ogorodnikova and her husband, Nikolai, a week before the scheduled trip to Eastern Europe, Grishin, immune from prosecution because of his diplomatic status, returned to Moscow for a “prolonged vacation” and has not returned.

Ogorodnikova’s testimony frequently conflicted with Miller’s own story as the prosecutor used her own denials of guilt to repudiate Miller’s previous claims that she had attempted to recruit him for the KGB and that he was just “playing along” so that he could infiltrate Soviet intelligence.

In effect, almost every question was designed to damage the credibility of either Ogorodnikova or Miller--and frequently both of them at the same time.

Meeting in Malibu

Referring to a pivotal Aug. 5, 1984, meeting at the Charthouse restaurant in Malibu, for example, Hayman began by asking Ogorodnikova to respond to one of Miller’s many accusations against her.

“Didn’t you ask Mr. Miller to work for the KGB?” Hayman asked.

“Miller knew I was working for the FBI, so how could I ask him to work for the KGB?” she responded. “No.”

That denial permitted Hayman to then quote to the jury from a Sept. 27, 1984, statement by Miller to the FBI before his arrest: “While at a restaurant at Malibu, she became very serious and asked me if I wanted to work with the KGB. She told me I could make a lot of money if I did that.”

Ogorodnikova was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to espionage conspiracy last June 26, and her husband received an eight-year term. This week prosecutors disclosed that she had tried to work out a 15-year plea bargain earlier in 1985, but that it was rejected by the government.

Reaction by Lawyers

As questioning resumes Monday, further disclosures about the secret plea-bargain talks are expected. Miller’s lawyers, meanwhile, were still reacting Friday to the latest of many surprises by Ogorodnikova during her testimony--disclosure that she had authorized her lawyers to tell U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon last year that she had received documents from Miller.

Claiming that the prosecution had set up a deliberate “scenario” to surprise the defense, lawyers Stanley Greenberg and Joel Levine renewed a motion for a mistrial on the grounds of government misconduct.

“We suggest the government used the court as an unwitting pawn,” Greenberg told Kenyon. “They set it up so that she could be impeached by surprise.”

Kenyon noted the motion for a possible appellate record, but ordered the trial to proceed.