For seven days, Judith Pelton listened to government lawyers and witnesses recount in a federal courtroom how her estranged husband confessed to being a spy for the Soviet Union.
She heard a tape recording of her husband telling Soviet officials he had some "interesting" information for them. She sat in the courtroom as her husband's former lover described a life with him that revolved around money, drugs and liquor. And then today, she watched a jury convict Ronald W. Pelton of espionage.
"I still love him," Judith Pelton said last night. "I still support him . . . I pray for him daily."
Judith Pelton said she does not believe that her husband sold secrets to the Soviet Union because his family was "destitute," as a government witness contended during his trial. Although finances may have been a problem, she said, the family was never "broke."
"He was going through the worst mid-life crisis of his life," she said, explaining what had gone awry for Ronald Pelton during the past few years. "It was a period in which he was confused about what he was doing with his life."
She said her husband became a born-again Christian in 1973, and lived for the next decade "as a Christian man."
As Ronald Pelton awaits sentencing that could send him to prison for life, his wife remains hopeful.
"This year, December 23rd, is our 25th anniversary," she said. "You just don't throw away 25 years of life because someone has broken a vow. I take my vows seriously . . . . Obviously, Ron has slipped up."
Judith Pelton said that she has been visiting her husband in jail since his arrest and their relationship has improved. She believes there is a "big possibility" they could reconcile "if anything ever happened and he did get out."
A Gaithersburg nursing supervisor, Judith Pelton said she was stunned when two FBI agents appeared at her door at midnight one Sunday last November to tell her that her husband had been arrested after admitting he had been a spy for the Soviet Union for five years. The couple had separated two months earlier.
She said neither she nor the couple's four children, all in their late teens and early 20s, really know if Ronald Pelton, a former National Security Agency employe, was engaged in espionage. "I just think there might be a lot more to this story than has come out," she said, adding that she believes her husband might have been working undercover for the U.S. government in some way.
She said she knew her husband had traveled to Vienna, Austria, several times in the past few years, but was unaware he was meeting with Soviet agents and staying at the residence of the Soviet ambassador. "I believed at the time that he was in some way still connected to NSA," she said last night.
The couple's three daughters, all of whom attended portions of the trial, have weathered the ordeal well, she said. "But they really don't know what to think." Her 17-year-old son, Ronald Jr., "is taking it a lot harder."
Judith Pelton, who also described herself as a born-again Christian, said having God in her life has helped her get through some terribly difficult days. "I don't think I could go on functioning, going to work and getting through the day if He wasn't in my life," she said. It is a subject she plans to bring up with her husband, she said.
"I think we have a lot to talk about," she said. "I think that will be coming up soon."