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Wife Turns on Confessed CIA Mole, Calls Him Unfeeling 'Monster'

October 21, 1994|ROBERT L. JACKSON and RONALD J. OSTROW | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — On the eve of her sentencing for espionage, Rosario Ames broke with her husband for the first time Thursday, describing confessed CIA mole Aldrich H. Ames as "a monster . . . incapable of loving anything or anyone other than himself."

Her attacks, which included a claim that he told her he was sexually impotent because she was "ugly," were aimed at reducing her prison sentence from the approximately five years she agreed to in the couple's plea agreement last April. She is to be sentenced today.

But in a separate court filing, federal prosecutors called the portrayal of her as a victim "utter nonsense." They pointed out that hundreds of hours of FBI-monitored conversations in the months before the couple's arrest last February showed "numerous instances where Mrs. Ames encouraged her husband in his illegal conduct."

On those tape recordings, revealed in court last spring, she urged her husband to exercise caution in packing suitcases with classified documents. She also helped him deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in spy payments in U.S. banks, according to previous testimony.

Still, prosecutors acknowledged that she was "a lesser participant" in the espionage conspiracy and that Aldrich Ames had "substantially complied" with his part of the plea agreement by disclosing details of his spying to FBI and CIA interrogators. The prosecutors recommended "a significant term of incarceration" for her within the agreed-upon period of 63 to 72 months.

In his court-approved plea agreement, Ames, 52, acknowledged eight years of espionage for the former Soviet Union and later Russia and accepted a term of life in prison without parole on condition that his wife receive no more than approximately five years in prison.

He also agreed to cooperate with investigators by fully disclosing the extent of his spying as chief of Soviet counterintelligence in the CIA's Soviet-East European division, for which he received $2.5 million in secret payments. He confessed that he gave the KGB the names of as many as a dozen Soviet and Eastern bloc officials cooperating with U.S. intelligence, all of whom either disappeared or were executed.

Rosario Ames, 41, played a role considerably smaller than her husband's, according to the government.

The government documents said of Aldrich Ames that "his cooperation has been substantial and has included significant new information about espionage activities not available from other sources."

But government interrogators "believe that Ames has not been completely forthcoming," a concern they said was supported by a polygraph exam given him on Sept. 20, the documents said. They did not elaborate on their suspicions, stressing instead that "he has, on balance, substantially complied with the agreement."

The lawyers for Rosario Ames, Washington attorney John P. Hume and two associates, joined the case after she said she wanted to replace her court-appointed counsel. In their filing, the new lawyers noted that U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton in Alexandria, Va., "is not bound by the recommended sentence in the plea agreement and may . . . impose any sentence permitted by statute."

It is understood that Hilton could sentence Rosario Ames to anything from the eight months already served to a maximum of 15 years on espionage and tax-evasion charges.

In her plea for leniency, she said through her lawyers that her husband "had already chosen the Russians over me, even before we were married" in the mid-1980s. She claimed that she did not learn of his espionage until 1992, saying her husband's life "was composed of lies, deceit and pathological manipulation of everyone and everything around him."

In another development, counterintelligence experts have said they intend to watch for signs that Russian officials are trying to funnel additional money to Rosario Ames. One U.S. official said the CIA often has extended financial support to foreign spies caught helping the United States.

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