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Ogorodnikova Calls Witness in Miller Spy Retrial a Liar

April 23, 1986|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

Convicted Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova, visibly nervous and describing herself as scared, took the witness stand in the espionage retrial of former FBI agent Richard W. Miller Tuesday and promptly denounced a controversial prosecution witness as a liar.

Under a grant of immunity from U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon, Ogorodnikova testified that she had a sexual relationship with FBI counterintelligence agent John Hunt two years before first meeting Miller in 1984.

Hunt, now retired, testified for the prosecution last week, branding the claim a "malicious falsehood" invented by Ogorodnikova to hide the fact that she was providing him information about Soviet diplomats in 1982 during a trial period as an FBI informant.

Speaks Hesitantly

But Ogorodnikova, speaking softly and hesitantly in heavily accented English, minimized her contacts with Soviet officials and denied any political motive as she challenged Hunt's denials of a sexual affair.

"Did you meet with Mr. Hunt many times?" asked Joel Levine, one of Miller's defense lawyers.

"I see him lots before I was arrested," Ogorodnikova said, referring to her arrest on Oct. 2, 1984, along with Miller and her husband, Nikolai, on charges of conspiring to pass secret FBI documents to the Soviet Union.

"Did you see him often in 1982?" Levine asked.

"Everyday, sir. And maybe sometimes Sunday," she answered.

"Did you ever go to motels?" Levine asked.

"Yes, I go," she said.

"Did you or did you not have sexual relations with Mr. Hunt?" the lawyer continued.

"Yes, I do, sir," Ogorodnikova answered.

Miller, 49, has admitted quickly beginning a sexual relationship with Ogorodnikova after meeting her in May, 1984. His attorneys view the testimony about Hunt's earlier relationship with Ogorodnikova--which the prosecution calls "confusing and irrelevant"--as crucial in supporting Miller's claim that there was precedent for unorthodox relationships with FBI informants.

Prosecutors' Objections

Ogorodnikova's testimony about a sexual relationship with Hunt was admitted over the objections of U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner and Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman, who last week unsuccessfully tried to block her from testifying at all in Miller's retrial.

For the first time since the second Miller trial opened Feb. 25--his first trial ended in a deadlocked jury last November--Kenyon's courtroom was packed with an overflow crowd of more than 100 spectators eager for a view of Ogorodnikova.

In dramatic contrast to her unkempt appearance at her own trial, which ended in a guilty plea and an 18-year prison sentence last June, Ogorodnikova was smartly attired in a well-tailored khaki pants and military blouse outfit, with makeup and her hair neatly styled.

Her testimony Tuesday, viewed as a prelude to potentially more explosive testimony today about her relationship with Hunt, was limited to a brief half-hour on the witness stand because of a mysterious series of meetings between Kenyon and the lawyers involved in the case.

The meetings in Kenyon's chambers, lasting more than four hours as the packed courtroom waited for Ogorodnikova to take the witness stand, led first to an unusually long public admonition from the judge that Ogorodnikova should not be afraid to tell the truth during her testimony.

Before the secret consultations, Kenyon indicated that the meetings were triggered by an unexplained phone call from Oakland lawyer Randy Sue Pollock, the former attorney for Nikolai Ogorodnikov. Pollock is known to have been in touch with Svetlana Ogorodnikova in recent months, but was not available for comment.

Lectured on Testimony

In a lecture apparently intended to make sure that Ogorodnikova understands that her immunity will protect her from further prosecution and that she should not expect any reduction of her sentence for whatever she says, Kenyon told her that the most important thing is the truth.

"Whatever anybody has said to you in the past, if anybody has, the only answer you can give is the truth," the judge said. "Is that clear?"

"Yes, your honor," Ogorodnikova said.

"You were sentenced to 18 years," Kenyon added. "I want it very clear: The court does not intend to change that sentence. Is that clear?"

Glancing toward her attorneys, Brad Brian and Gregory Stone, Ogorodnikova softly answered: "Yes, sir, I understand."

While attacking Hunt's credibility in her subsequent testimony, Ogorodnikova played down her own contacts with Soviet officials operating out of the Soviet Consulate in San Francisco, denying that she regularly entertained Soviet diplomats or that Russian consular officials played a role in establishing her in a business showing Soviet films in Los Angeles.

Object of Assistance

After Ogorodnikova admitted providing information to Hunt in 1982, Levine asked her whom she was trying to help.

"Oh, well, that's a very difficult question," she said. "I never know. It was just personal. He (Hunt) asked me like a friend, and I answered him like a friend.

"Later on, he lie," she added. "When I was arrested, I don't believe what he write (in various FBI reports about their relationship.) Most of the information he picked up from other people. He write it, but he lie."

Ogorodnikova said her relationship with Hunt continued until he broke it off on grounds that she was no longer useful to him as an informant.

"He say he can't see me," she said. "Without information, he can't see me."

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