A federal judge sentenced former CIA agent Edwin P. Wilson to 15 years in prison yesterday and ordered him to pay a $200,000 fine for what the judge called a "cold, calculated, determined" scheme to smuggle four handguns and an M16 rifle to Libya in 1979.
District Judge Richard L. Williams also imposed a total of 15 years for five other arms smuggling counts on which a jury convicted the tall, gray-haired Wilson Nov. 17 in Alexandria. Those terms will run concurrently with Wilson's 15-year sentence.
Prosecutors said they expected Wilson to serve at least five years although Williams structured the sentences so that Wilson is technically eligible for immediate parole.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore S. Greenberg later hailed the sentence as "appropriate."
"Wilson was not your ordinary gun-runner. The judge gave him what he deserved," Greenberg said.
Chief defense lawyer Herald Price Fahringer, who has portrayed his client as "the spy who was left out in the cold" by the nation he once served, said later that Wilson was "obviously disappointed."
"He thought it was very severe," Fahringer said. "He was hurt by it."
Greenberg said the government will recommend that the 54-year-old former intelligence officer be imprisoned in a maximum-security facility.
Wilson stood silently with hands clasped behind him and had a somber expression as the judge announced his sentence. He declined to address the court before sentencing.
Wilson could have received up to 39 years' incarceration and fines totaling $240,000 for his conviction on conspiracy and U.S. export-law violations.
The conviction will be appealed, Fahringer said.
The brief hearing yesterday marked the end of only the first phase of Wilson's legal troubles arising from what prosecutors have charged was a complex $22 million scheme to serve as a private arms dealer to Libya's radical regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
Wilson is scheduled for trial on Jan. 3 in Houston on charges he masterminded the smuggling of 40,000 pounds of high explosives to Libya. A trial on separate explosives counts is set to begin Jan. 25 in the District. A fourth trial, on murder conspiracy charges, also will take place in the District.
In a statement to Williams, prosecutor Greenberg also alluded to matters "for which he Wilson has not yet been indicted," hinting future charges against Wilson. Greenberg has refused to discuss any ongoing federal investigation.
Williams described the sentencing as "a particularly painful experience for me in view of your remarkable record of serving your country." He noted that Wilson had served as a Marine officer in Korea before joining the CIA in 1955 and later a secret Navy intelligence group.
The defense maintained during the trial last month and again last week in a pretrial hearing in Houston, that Wilson was working with the CIA in Libya and that his private arms dealings were essential to disguise intelligence-gathering activities beneficial to the United States.
Federal prosecutors have denied that Wilson had official ties to any U.S. intelligence agency while in Libya. Wilson was arrested in June in New York after prosecutors tricked him into leaving Libya.
Greenberg yesterday characterized Wilson instead as a "renegade" who should "not be allowed to erode the public's confidence in the intelligence community." Wilson, said Greenberg, was a man who exchanged the "mantle of innocence for the robes of a greedy mercenary."
Fahringer, in rebuttal, pleaded with Williams to disregard such "hysterical arguments, designed, perhaps, to detonate your worst feelings."
"I can't help but conclude," said Williams, "that these seven counts were not isolated, but a sophisticated scheme orchestrated by Wilson to engage in the international arms business. . . . You were obviously very successful at it."
Wilson was led away in handcuffs and leg irons shortly after sentencing for a return flight to New York, where he has been held since June.