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Miller Played Double-Agent Game, Defense Argues

June 11, 1986|WILLIAM OVEREND | Times Staff Writer

Comparing former FBI Agent Richard W. Miller to an unsuccessful real-life version of a Clint Eastwood-type movie hero, a defense lawyer maintained Tuesday that the accused Soviet spy was engaged in a maverick double-agent operation when he became involved two years ago with Russian emigre Svetlana Ogorodnikova.

"Think of the movie characters played by Eddie Murphy and Clint Eastwood, where the hero violates every rule and regulation and he gets his man," attorney Joel Levine said in closing arguments during Miller's espionage retrial in Los Angeles federal court.

"Mr. Miller was involved in some form of an unauthorized and unorthodox double-agent plan, and was not out to become a traitor or a spy," Levine said. "He was not as cute as Eddie Murphy, not as macho as Clint Eastwood, and he couldn't pull it off."

Levine, after a strong prosecution attack on the credibility of Ogorodnikova's testimony in Miller's second spy trial, conceded that the convicted Soviet agent had reasons to lie during her 13-day performance as the star witness for the defense.

"Mrs. Ogorodnikova has a stake in the outcome, it is true," he said. "She has reasons to fabricate testimony. We don't deny it."

Urging the jury not to totally reject her testimony, Levine noted that the defense told the jury at the beginning of the trial that it should have no interest in defending Ogorodnikova or in determining whether or not she was a Soviet spy. He said her motives did not matter in Miller's proclaimed plans of using her to infiltrate the Soviet KGB.

Basis of Problem

"Her biggest believability problem in this case is that she is a Russian," Levine said. "If that is the standard, I guess all the Russian witnesses lied."

Continuing to focus on the issue of witness credibility, Levine questioned the testimony of several key prosecution witnesses, including retired FBI Agent John Hunt, whose testimony early in the trial centered on a 1982 effort to recruit Ogorodnikova as an FBI informant.

Hunt testified that he gave up the effort because Ogorodnikova's loyalties were questionable. He also denied charges by Ogorodnikova that he been sexually involved with her, countering that he had rejected sexual overtures by her.

"What about Mr. Hunt and his credibility?" Levine asked. "He does not report the sexual overtures, a trip to the doctor's office with Ogorodnikova, and only one phone call in 1984.

"If you had not heard Svetlana Ogorodnikova, you would have to believe that Hunt had 55 meetings at night with her in eight months just to build rapport," Levine added. "In 55 meetings you can build a lot of rapport."

Miller, 49, was arrested with Ogorodnikova and her husband, Nikolai, Oct.2, 1984, on charges of conspiring to pass secret FBI documents to the Soviet Union. The Ogorodnikovs pleaded guilty to espionage conspiracy last June 26. Miller's first trial ended in a deadlocked jury last November.

In closing prosecution arguments, Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Hayman charged that Miller reported his involvement with Ogorodnikova to the FBI five days before his arrest only because he had become aware that he was under investigation for espionage activity.

Levine responded Tuesday by pointing out that after Miller allegedly spotted an FBI agent looking at him in the parking lot of a Little League ballpark on Sept. 26, 1984, he proceeded to go on a shopping trip with Ogorodnikova and later returned with her to the same ballpark.

Passport Application

Before reporting his involvement the next day, Levine added, Miller first applied for a passport so that he could join Ogorodnikova on a trip to Warsaw, where he allegedly planned to turn over FBI secrets to the KGB.

Arguing that Miller thought that the FBI would approve the trip and authorize him to turn over the documents, Levine said Miller was merely trying to salvage his mediocre FBI career and fully expected his superiors to endorse his plans.

"Miller was the fellow at the end of the bench in the baseball game, and he yearned to get into the game with a home run," Levine said. "He had a career that needed to be redeemed, and he was trying to redeem it."

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