MOSCOW — The U.S. Embassy has told American defector Wade E. Roberts that he would face a lesser charge than desertion if he goes back to West Germany or the United States and turns himself in for trial, Roberts said Thursday.
Roberts said in a telephone interview that a consular officer at the embassy told him that he would face charges of being absent without leave, or AWOL, from the Army unit in West Germany that he fled to come to the Soviet Union last April. He apparently had been facing charges of desertion.
He added that the embassy also told him he could receive an American passport, valid only for return to the United States or a military facility in Western Europe.
"I will have to talk to the Soviets," Roberts said, to ask for their permission to leave the country and go back to the United States.
"But if the Americans put it down on paper--sure, I will go for it," Roberts said. He said the possible punishment for an AWOL conviction would be far less severe than the penalty imposed for desertion.
The 22-year-old native of San Bernardino previously applied to go to East Germany with his companion, West German Petra Neumann, who is expecting their child.
The East Germans replied that the couple could have visas but would have to take a six-month political orientation course upon arrival. Roberts said that was unacceptable.
The U.S. Embassy also agreed to inquire whether a visa could be obtained for Neumann to accompany Roberts to the United States, he said. No embassy comment was immediately available.
When they first defected, Roberts and Neumann stayed briefly in Moscow, then were sent by Soviet authorities to Ashkhabad, in the Soviet republic of Turkmenia, where he had a job caring for poisonous snakes. Roberts said they could not adjust to the living conditions there and decided to leave the Soviet Union.