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Emotions Run High as Jury in Miller Spy Case Hears Final Arguments

October 17, 1985|LINDA DEUTSCH | Associated Press

A federal court jury, urged by the lawyer for former FBI agent Richard W. Miller to "end Mr. Miller's nightmare" and find him innocent, was told by a prosecutor Wednesday that Miller "besmirched the name of the FBI" and should be convicted.

In an emotional reply to a potent defense summation, U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner declared that jurors can find the fired FBI agent guilty of espionage even if they do not know whether he intended to betray his country.

"Quite frankly, I don't think Mr. Miller gave a second thought to his country at the time he did these things," Bonner said.

"He, by his actions, besmirched the name of the FBI. . . . The stain he has placed on the FBI will dim with time, but it will never be erased."

These and other comments by Bonner brought a motion for mistrial after the jury had left the room. Defense attorney Stanley Greenberg said Bonner had improperly appealed to jurors' emotions and drew attention to the fact that Miller never took the stand in his own defense.

U.S. District Judge David Kenyon denied the motion. He said he would instruct jurors in the law and submit the case to them today after Bonner concludes his response.

If convicted, Miller could be sentenced to life in prison.

During the defense summation, attorney Joel Levine depicted Miller as a bumbler, "a shoe that never fit in the FBI," but not a spy.

And he reminded jurors that the key evidence against Miller "came from Mr. Miller's own lips" during five days of intensive interrogation by the FBI.

He noted that the interviews were not taped "although there was no shortage of recording equipment in this case" and suggested that Miller was confused and pressured into making inaccurate statements.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you look at the pressures brought to bear on Mr. Miller, we think there is ample evidence to conclude Mr. Miller's statements were unreliable," Levine said.

Levine concluded by quoting former President Gerald R. Ford, who declared when he took office: "Our long national nightmare is over."

"Ladies and gentlemen," he concluded, "with your good judgment, your independent judgment, you will end Mr. Miller's nightmare."

Levine said Miller "was really in the wrong profession. He was a very average person with average strengths and weaknesses.

"But because of his profession we have this image of someone in a Superman suit, and that didn't fit him," Levine said.

Miller, 48, was arrested Oct. 2, 1984, on charges of furnishing classified information to Soviet agents for $65,000 in cash and gold. Co-defendants Svetlana and Nikolai Ogorodnikov already have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison for conspiring to commit espionage.

Levine, concluding his final argument for the defense, said the best word to describe Miller was "bumbler." He told jurors a hypothetical story to illustrate the defense theory of Miller's intent--that he was trying to launch a maverick double-agent operation to catch Soviet spies.

Levine told jurors to imagine a baseball player who has been a bumbler all season, then in the playoffs is called in by the manager to hit a "sacrifice bunt."

"The bumbler says, 'Sure,' but he doesn't want to bunt. He's waited all season and he wants to hit a home run," Levine said.

"He steps to home plate, and beyond his wildest dreams he hits the ball further than anyone has ever hit it. He hits it out of the stadium . . . and the umpire looks up and calls it a foul ball. The manager tells our hero bumbler, 'You're out of the game.'

"The next day, the manager holds a press conference and says, 'I'm kicking him off the team. He wouldn't follow orders and he was trying to help the other team win,' " Levine said.

"That's what happened to Richard Miller. He was about to hit a home run beyond his wildest dreams. But he was not following rules."

Levine confronted jurors with dozens of questions he said need to be answered if they are to convict Miller of anything.

"There are so many questions in this case . . . that you need to ask and you cannot answer," he said.

He showed jurors a chart entitled, "Actions of a Spy?" and listed things that Miller did that were inconsistent with a plan to betray his country.

"If Mr. Miller was intending to be a spy, would he have filled out a passport application in his own name?" Levine asked.

He noted that Miller often rendezvoused with Svetlana Ogorodnikova at a park about two blocks from FBI headquarters.

"If a person intended to become a traitor to his country you'd think they would choose a more discreet location to meet his co-conspirator, wouldn't you?" Levine said.

Levine focused jurors' attention on a piece of hotly disputed testimony--whether Miller spotted an FBI agent and knew he was under investigation the day before he went to a supervisor and confessed his affair with Svetlana Ogorodnikova.

Levine scoffed at agent Paul De Flores' contention that Miller saw him and registered surprise. If so, Levine asked, why did Miller return to the same spot later that day and stroll with Svetlana Ogorodnikova in broad daylight?

He cited the jurors' field trip to the park and their efforts to see what Miller would have seen in bright sunlight.

"You all know what you saw in the car," he said.

If Miller didn't know he was under surveillance, Levine said, there is no reasonable explanation of why he would confront his supervisor except the explanation he offered--that he wanted the go-ahead to proceed with his double-agent operation.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if you cannot resolve beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Miller knew he was under investigation, then you cannot convict him," Levine said.

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