Mark J. Hulkower, prosecutor in Aldrich Ames spy case, dies at 53

By T. Rees Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 11:48 PM

Mark J. Hulkower, 53, a Washington defense lawyer who in his earlier career served as the Justice Department prosecutor in the espionage case against CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, died Feb. 5 at Capital Hospice in Arlington County. He had colon cancer.

At the time of his death, Mr. Hulkower was a partner at Steptoe and Johnson, where he led the firm's white-collar criminal defense group. His clients included executives from Enron, AOL, Tyco and the Teamsters Union, as well as a Blackwater security guard who was accused of killing unarmed civilians in Iraq.

Mr. Hulkower came to prominence as an assistant U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia from 1989 to 1995. He helped secure convictions in three high-profile spy cases. They included Frank Nesbitt, a onetime Marine who passed intelligence secrets to Russia; Frederick C. Hamilton, a Defense Intelligence Agency researcher who gave classified documents to Ecuador; and Steven J. Lalas, a State Department staffer who spied for Greece.

"No matter how overwhelming the evidence can be, prosecuting espionage cases is never easy," said John L. Martin, the retired chief of internal security at the Justice Department. "Mark was prepared to the teeth."

Because of his successful record, Mr. Hulkower was picked in 1994 to be the lead prosecutor in the case against Ames.

A CIA counterintelligence officer, Ames became a double agent for the Soviet foreign intelligence service in 1985. His Soviet handlers paid Ames millions of dollars for funneling top-secret documents, including files that identified U.S. agents in the former Soviet Union.

At least 10 U.S. intelligence sources in the Soviet Union were executed because of Ames, Mr. Hulkower said, "as surely as if the defendant had pulled the trigger."

They died, Mr. Hulkower said, because "Ames wasn't making enough money with the CIA and wanted to live in a half-million dollar house and drive a Jaguar."

Ames pleaded guilty in 1994 to conspiracy to commit espionage and tax evasion. He is serving a life sentence at a U.S. penitentiary near Allenwood, Pa.

Mr. Hulkower also served as the prosecutor of Ames's wife, Maria del Rosario Casas Ames, who aided her husband's espionage work.

Rosario Ames recalled meeting Mr. Hulkower not long after her arrest on Feb. 21, 1994, at her home in North Arlington.

"This repugnant-looking Hulkower walks in," Ames's Colombian-born wife recalled in Pete Earley's 1997 book, "Confessions of a Spy." "He's very smooth, he tries to be very charming. . . . But I see him for what he is, a nasty, ill-bred creature who thinks he's great."

In court proceedings, Mr. Hulkower described how Rosario Ames was complicit in her husband's life as a double agent and reaped some of the rewards herself.

During a trip to New York, Mr. Hulkower said, "Mrs. Ames happily spent $6,000 of the KGB's money on a weekend shopping spree," including $2,000 on clothes and shoes.

"There are many victims in this case, Mrs. Ames," Mr. Hulkower said in court, "but you're not one."

She pleaded guilty to the same charges as her husband and was sentenced to five years and three months in a federal prison.

Mark Joseph Hulkower was born July 3, 1957, in the Bronx, N.Y. His father became president of Pony International, a footwear and athletic supply company.

Mr. Hulkower graduated from Cornell University in 1980 and moved to London, where he spent a year as a bar manager at the Hard Rock Cafe near Hyde Park.

At Georgetown University's law school, Mr. Hulkower was an editor of the law journal and graduated in 1984 with high honors.

He began his career at the Washington law firm of Williams and Connolly before joining the Justice Department.

Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Nancy Delp Hulkower, and their three children, Annie, Griffin and Maggie, all of Alexandria; his parents, Gustave Hulkower of Tuscon and Rita Hulkower of Westchester County, N.Y.; and a brother.

Early in his law career, Mr. Hulkower clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Judge Robert H. Bork.

On one occasion, Mr. Hulkower was assigned to write an opinion for the conservative judge and decided to play a prank, his family said.

When the judge read Mr. Hulkower's work, Bork discovered his clerk had written the entire opinion with an extremely liberal interpretation of the law.

"You have either lost your mind," Bork scolded Mr. Hulkower, "or you have another version in your jacket pocket."

Mr. Hulkower smiled and removed the real opinion from his coat, while the judge sighed in relief.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company