NEW YORK — Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree, one of the former Marine Corps guards at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow accused of espionage, will seek to move his case to a civilian court on grounds that a fair trial in military courts "is an absolute impossibility," his attorneys said Monday.
The attorneys, citing what they call "the intemperate and inflammatory" publicity surrounding the sex-and-spy scandal, will say in motions expected to be filed by midweek that Marine Corps personnel should not be allowed to judge the case.
"Only a civilian court may . . . be unaffected by any military esprit de corps or desire for revenge or retribution for what Marine Corps personnel may regard as a momentous blow to the reputation, prestige and honor of the (Marines)," says the motion prepared to seek transfer of the case to District of Columbia federal court.
'Can't Think of Heavier Blow'
"I can't think of a heavier blow to the pride of the Marines than for one of its own to be accused of spying for the enemy," said William M. Kunstler, an attorney for Lonetree. "To ask Marine officers to sit in judgment on this man is like asking the officers of a company to be the jury in a case affecting their own company."
The attorneys for Lonetree, who is accused of allowing KGB agents into the U.S. Embassy in Moscow after engaging in a sexual relationship with a Soviet woman, also plan to file a civil suit in federal court in Washington, asking the civilian court to assume jurisdiction in the case.
They plan to file the action before the next round of court-martial hearings at the Marine base in Quantico, Va., scheduled for Wednesday. Those hearings are expected to be closed to the public, though Kunstler said he will request that they be opened.
In arguments supporting the civil action, Lonetree's attorneys also will disclose new background on the 25-year-old Marine, including his relationship to a great uncle--Mitchell Red Cloud--who won the Medal of Honor when he was killed at Hill 123 early in the Korean War.
Lonetree's mother, a Navajo Indian, is described in the civil complaint as "deeply involved" in efforts to prevent the forced relocation of Navajos in Arizona. His father is a Winnebago Indian, and Kunstler described Lonetree's grandfather, Sam Lonetree, as a Winnebago holy man.
Long Line of Family Veterans
The civil complaint characterizes Lonetree, an American Indian, as part of a long line of military veterans from his family going back to World War I. He enlisted in the Marine Corps while still attending high school in St. Paul, Minn., and entered the service after graduation on July 22, 1980.
After undergoing training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Lonetree did a tour at the Marine Barracks at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He volunteered for the Marine Security Guard Battalion at Quantico and was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Sept. 27, 1984.
Kunstler said he is concerned about prospects of fair treatment for Lonetree, in part because of published statements attributed to Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger recently that intelligence damage from the incident "might have caused 'shocking' damage." Weinberger also has said that the military would seek the maximum penalty--death--if the Marines are convicted.
"I'm afraid they just want to execute somebody--get one good conviction to show that the Marine Corps is still tough," Kunstler said.
Has Legal Defense Doubts
Kunstler also expressed doubts about the quality of legal defense that Lonetree can expect from military lawyers assigned to the accused Marines for the court-martial proceedings. He said prejudicial conditions in the military judicial system taint the process.
"These military guys aren't going to bust their butts for this case. It wouldn't be good for them," Kunstler said.
The civil complaint adds that Lonetree cannot receive a fair trial from Marine Corps judges because of the very nature of his charges--alleged crimes that bring "enormous discredit" to the Marines.