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Testimony Concludes in Pelton Spy Case

Times Staff Writer

Testimony ended Tuesday in the espionage trial of Ronald W. Pelton as he completed two days on the stand, asserting that two FBI agents led him to believe he would not be arrested.

Today, both sides are scheduled to make closing arguments, with the case then going to the 12-member jury, which has been sequestered throughout the trial.

Pelton, a former communications specialist with the National Security Agency, said that the agents who interrogated him for five hours last November before arresting him had “made it rather plain” that he was in no danger of arrest.

‘Sizing Me Up’

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Instead, he said, under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Atty. John G. Douglass, the agents appeared to be “sizing me up” for a counterintelligence mission for the U.S. government.

Pelton, 44, who earned $24,500 annually at NSA when he resigned after 14 years with the super-secret agency, is accused of selling sensitive national security data to the Soviet Union for $35,000. He has admitted selling material but asserts that he was tricked into confessing and was not informed of his right to remain silent.

In his questioning on the sixth day of the trial, Douglass tried to portray Pelton as a liar who knew he faced prosecution and was attempting to make a deal with the agents through “bluffs,” “probes” and “bargaining chips” involving secrets that Pelton accumulated by virtue of his top secret clearance at NSA. The agency intercepts and decodes sensitive foreign military communications.

After Pelton, the only defense witness, left the stand, prosecutors called their 15th and final witness, Dr. Donald Jasinski, a medical professor at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on chemical dependency.

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Testimony Focuses on Drugs

Jasinski’s testimony focused on the effects of the painkiller Dilaudid, on which Pelton has admitted spending $200 a week. Monday, he testified that, on the day he was questioned by the FBI, he and a former girlfriend, Ann Barry, bought Dilaudid tablets on the street in Washington, D.C., “cooked” them and injected the drug.

As part of his contention that the FBI took advantage of him, Pelton testified that the drug, combined with numerous drinks of vodka, had left him so “mellow” that he told the agents more than he intended.

But Jasinski said the drug, an opiate that makes things “seem more pleasing” and produces a “dream-like state,” reaches its peak in one hour and loses most of its effects in three to four hours. Thus, Pelton, who injected Dilaudid more than five hours before his second interview of the day, probably would not have been influenced by the drug during the interrogation.

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