A Soviet emigre who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with an FBI agent to commit espionage has reversed herself in an emotional statement, telling a U.S. district court judge that neither she nor fired FBI agent Richard W. Miller were spies.
Svetlana Ogorodnikova, testifying in Miller's retrial, told U.S. District Court Judge David V. Kenyon that "Richard is not a traitor of his country. I am not a Russian spy. I was helping the U.S. government. This is true, your honor. We are not guilty of this crime."
Ogorodnikova talked to Kenyon Thursday in his chambers, in the presence of defense and prosecution attorneys. Kenyon released the transcript of her remarks today.
Miller's first trial ended late last year when the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision. The Soviet woman did not testify in Miller's first trial or in her own trial, where she and her husband, Nikolai, entered surprise guilty pleas.
Ogorodnikova, serving an 18-year sentence, told Kenyon that she entered the guilty plea to avoid being sentenced to life imprisonment. "When I was arrested, I couldn't understand what was going on. They told me that I was Russian. That they will give me the life sentence . . . . I understood that I was Russian. I understood, too, that nobody maybe would not believe me."
The emigre, who came to the United States in 1973, said that she had meant "to tell the same story," one consistent with her guilty plea, in her testimony. But, Ogorodnikova said, "When I saw his son, his face, I thought he was asking me -- it's hard to describe."
Miller's 17-year-old son, one of eight children, was in court Tuesday for Ogorodnikova's first day of testimony. "I want to tell his son myself that your father is not guilty. I was scared. I am Russian. And the jury will never believe me, and that's the truth."
Ogorodnikova said she and Miller were arrested because "the FBI had a plan. They prepared this plan in order to do something for their career and reputation. They don't think about the lives of other people." Earlier, Ogorodnikova testified that she had a love affair with John Hunt, an FBI agent who retired shortly after her arrest, and that it was Hunt who suggested she get together with Miller. Ogorodnikova and Miller have both testified about their own love affair.
Hunt said in earlier testimony that he repulsed the sexual advances of the Russian woman. Ogorodnikova testified that she became pregnant by Hunt, he paid for an abortion and told her their affair was over because she was not a good informer.
Kenyon considered replacing Ogorodnikova's attorneys, who represented her in the plea bargain, but later said "there does not appear to be a conflict of interest."
Before making that ruling, Kenyon issued a sharp rebuke to Stanley Greenberg, one of Miller's attorneys, saying Greenberg had tried to influence the selection of a possible replacement attorney for Ogorodnikova.
Kenyon said it was "such a gross violation of all ethics . . . that the only alternative the court would have is a jail sentence." Because of the possible punishment, Kenyon said, "Mr. Greenberg should have the right to fully defend himself." The contempt order was put in abeyance by the judge, who said the court would proceed "as best we can."