Former FBI Agent Miller Waives Jury Trial in Spy Case
Hoping to swiftly resolve his long-standing case, former FBI agent Richard W. Miller on Friday waived his right to a jury trial on charges that he passed U.S. secrets to Soviet spies.
The unexpected move means that U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi in Los Angeles will decide the guilt or innocence of Miller, who had his previous espionage conviction overturned by a federal appeals court last year. Takasugi set a new trial date for Aug. 21.
This will be his third trial for Miller, 52. The first one ended in a hung jury in 1985. The following year, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted him of trading a secret FBI manual to the Soviets for sex, money and a Burberry trench coat.
Miller’s conviction was overturned by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in April of last year and he was released on bail in October. Since then, he has worked as a private investigator in Manhattan Beach.
After the conviction was reversed, U.S. District Judge David Kenyon, who had presided over the first two trials, removed himself and the case was reassigned to Takasugi.
Miller has consistently maintained that he was not a spy, but rather was trying to revive his flagging FBI career with an ill-fated attempt to penetrate the KGB through a love affair with Svetlana Ogorodnikova. She pleaded guilty to criminal charges and is in federal prison in Northern California.
Before granting Miller’s request for a non-jury trial, Judge Takasugi questioned the defendant closely about his decision on how the third trial is to be conducted.
“Do you realize there could be no verdict unless 12 people agree?” the judge asked. “Do you want me to make the decision by myself?”
Miller hesitated before replying. “I have discussed this with counsel,” he responded. “We talked about it at great length. Yes, that’s my decision . . . with some reluctance.”
Miller’s lawyers, Joel Levine and Stanley Greenberg, said they had suggested the move in hopes of swiftly resolving the long-standing case. Miller was arrested Oct 2, 1984, and spent five years in federal custody before being released on bail.
“There can’t be a hung judge,” Levine said in an interview outside the courtroom. “After 6 1/2 years, it’s time for a resolution.”
The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman, agreed to the jury waiver. “We welcome a trial by the court in this case,” he told reporters outside court after conferring with his superiors.
Both Hayman and Greenberg said this was the first instance they knew of in which a defendant in an espionage case waived his right to a jury trial.