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Miller Family Didn't Have Money Woes, Wife Testifies

October 01, 1985|From Times Wire Services

The wife of accused spy Richard W. Miller testified at his trial for the first time Monday, saying the family managed to live adequately on his FBI agent's salary.

Defense attorneys elicited the testimony from Paula Miller to rebut prosecution claims that severe financial problems helped to prompt Miller to sell secret documents to his Soviet lover, Svetlana Ogorodnikova, for sex and the promise of $65,000.

Ogorodnikova and her husband, Nikolai, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in June and are serving jail terms. Miller, 48, the only FBI agent ever charged with espionage, faces life in prison if convicted.

Testifying for the first time since the trial began early in August, Paula Miller said the family had no savings but lived adequately on his $50,000-plus annual income along with some stocks and investments.

'Sloppy' Bookkeeping

Mrs. Miller testified that she had to be careful budgeting the family's finances, but said there was enough money for her and her husband to take a 20th-anniversary trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, in March, 1984, and to take their eight children skiing in Utah the next month.

In addition, the family was able to donate 10% of its income to the Mormon Church, she said.

Earlier in the trial, the woman who sold the Millers their property testified that they fell more than $3,000 behind in mortgage payments.

Mrs. Miller admitted that her bookkeeping habits were "sloppy" and that she often was late on mortgage payments on the family's 20-acre avocado ranch in northern San Diego County.

"I make mistakes," she said. "I'm not an accountant, I'm an English teacher."

But, she said, the payments were late in part because she had difficulty collecting the portions owed by her parents and two other couples who had bought parcels of the property.

Under cross-examination, she admitted that in a Sept. 30, 1984, conversation with P. Bryce Christensen, a family friend and assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, she referred to the ranch as a "white elephant" and the expenses as "crushing."

She attributed the statement to the pressure of managing the ranch while Miller spent weekdays at another home in Lynwood to be near his work, and said she had a tendency to dramatize.

"I am a dramatic English teacher," she said. "I may have said anything. But I don't recall feeling that way about the expenses."

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman, Mrs. Miller said her family and her parents had not obtained a return on two $15,000 investments, but she added that their financial adviser had reimbursed them for their share of the investments.

Earlier, Miller's defense asked that dozens of documents found in his desk be admitted as evidence.

Attorney Joel Levine asked U.S. District Judge David Kenyon to accept the unclassified papers as part of the defense's "pack rat theory" that Miller kept unclassified as well as classified documents in his desk and at his home.

"He was a pack rat," Levine said. "This was a man who just collected documents, period."

Prosecutors say the unclassified papers in Miller's desk are irrelevant and should not be admitted.

Included are scraps of paper detailing Miller's plans to lose weight, improve his relationship with his wife and regain his status in the Mormon Church, which had excommunicated him for adultery.

Miller's attorneys argue that the papers show the agent was trying to correct his problems, not escape them by selling documents for money.

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