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Mother Asks Compassion for Peri

Associated Press

The mother of an Orange County soldier who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for giving U.S. military secrets to East Germany has asked officials to allow him to “redeem himself,” a military newspaper said Monday.

The Darmstadt-based military newspaper Stars and Stripes said Winnie Peri of Laguna Niguel, the mother of Pvt. 1 Michael A. Peri, 22, made the plea in a handwritten statement to the newspaper.

Peri pleaded guilty last month to taking a laptop computer and four discs containing classified defense information into communist East Germany on Feb. 20 and turning it over to the East Germans.

Peri, whose former rank was specialist, returned to his unit on March 4 with the computer and discs. He was convicted of espionage on June 24 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Experts determined that the discs had been copied in East Germany.

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Peri was also stripped of all pay and benefits and demoted to the lowest rank, Pvt. 1.

At his court-martial, Peri tearfully asked for forgiveness and said he had gone to East Germany because he was frustrated with his job as an intelligence analyst and electronic signals interceptor.

“His freedom and rank have been stripped away. He is hurting inside,” Stars and Stripes quoted Peri’s mother as writing.

“He is a sensitive young man who will carry this burden for the rest of his life. Please empathize with him; leave him the dignity to redeem himself and to contribute to society,” the newspaper quoted Winnie Peri as saying.

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She, her husband, Fred, and their daughter, Desiree, attended their son’s court-martial in Fulda, West Germany, and testified on his behalf.

The court-martial judge hearing the case said that under a pretrial agreement, Peri’s sentence automatically would be reduced to 25 years if he remained on good behavior the first three years of his sentence.

In addition, under the military justice system, Peri’s case goes before several automatic reviews which could reduce the sentence further.

“We ask the review board to weigh 22 years of model behavior as a son, brother, citizen and soldier against 12 days of confusion and disorientation,” Stars and Stripes quoted his mother as writing in what it said was a six-paragraph statement.

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“We ask them to be compassionate, to take into account his age and inexperience and not destroy his youth,” she wrote.

“He made a mistake, which he deeply regrets. He bared his soul when he asked for forgiveness. We ask his unit and his country to accept his apology,” Stars and Stripes quoted her statement as saying.

At his court-martial, Peri said he returned “because I couldn’t handle leaving my parents behind, my friends behind. Taking what I had coming was better.”

Peri was kept in confinement at a military facility in Mannheim before his trial. He is being held there pending transfer to a military disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

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