Lonetree, US Marine Convicted of Spying Appeals

Top Military Court Hears Appeal of Marine Convicted of Spying

Neil A. Lewis - The New York Times - May 13, 1991

WASHINGTON - Clayton J. Lonetree, the marine sergeant convicted of espionage for his role in disclosing secrets about the United States Embassy in Moscow, is asking that his conviction be overturned because he never learned the identity of one accuser. He also says that his lawyer, William J. Kunstler of New York, misled him about the possibility of a plea agreement.

The case of Private Lonetree, who was reduced in rank and is

serving a 25 year sentence at Fort Leavenworth

, is before the United States Court Military Appeals in Washington, the court of last resort in the military justice system. If the three-judge military court turns down the appeal, the marine's lawyers would then be able to ask the Supreme Court to consider the matter.

Private Lonetree's lawyers have agreed that he was convicted in 1987 in an atmosphere of hysteria about the publicity that Soviet intelligence agents had penetrated the United States Embassy in Moscow where he served as a member of the Marine Contingent. The most sensational allegation, that the marine led Soviet intelligence agents on a tour inside the embassy, was dropped, and investigators have said they are now convinced never occurred.

He was convicted of having an affair with a Soviet woman employed at the embassy who drew him into the service of "Uncle Sasha," an agent of the Soviet intelligence service, to whom he admitted supplying information for cash. The Marine Corps prohibits guards at the Moscow Embassy from having close contacts with Soviet citizens.

According to the trial documents, Private Lonetree sold Uncle Sash, who was identified as Alexei G. Yelsimov, floor plans of the American embassies in Vienna and Moscow as well as the names of intelligence agents working undercover at the Moscow embassy.

The marine was convicted on all 13 charges he faced. His sentence included a fine of $5,000,

the loss of all military pay and allowances, reduction in rank to private and a dishonorable discharge.

Lee Calligaro, Private Lonetree's lawyer, told the military appeals court last week that Mr. Kunstler "had an agenda other than defending Sergeant Lonetree."

Mr. Calligaro said that Mr. Kunstler, a lawyer long active in politically-charged trials, neglected to inform the marine that the military could have allowed him to serve only a few years in exchange for his help in assessing how much intelligence had been passed to the Soviets.

"He never even found out what the Government's best deal was," said Mr. Calligaro.

Prosecutor Says No Offer Made

Mr. Kunstler said he would not dispute the charges as a matter of principle. "Whenever a client claims I did something wrong, I would never publicly deny it," he said. "If they can win their case by proving any dereliction on my part, it would be all for the good and I cheer him on because it would end an unjust conviction and a savage sentence."

Lieut. Comdr. Lawrence W. Muschamp, the military prosecutor, told the court that a specific offer of only a few years on custody was never put forward.

Mr. Calligaro also asked the court to judge who tried the case to grant a new trial because the military judge who tried the case allowed the prosecution to use as a witness an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency without disclosing his identity to the defense. The witness, who testified largely in closed session, said that he observed a Soviet intelligence agent go to a location to pick up some material, as the marine had said he would, which was taken as confirmation of Private Lonetree's confession.

Although the code of military justice varies from civilian criminal codes, defendants are guaranteed all constitutional protections. Mr. Calligaro argued that his client was deprived of a basic right "to know the identity of the witness against him."

Private Lonetree was stationed in Moscow in 1985 and l986, and when he was transferred to Vienna, he sought out an American intelligence agent to confess what had occurred. Another issue in the case is whether he was falsely told that his confession would not be used against him.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Alfred M. Gray Jr., has recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that Private Lonetree's sentence be reduced from 25 to 15 years.

General Gray, in a letter written in 1989 and resubmitted last year, said that the effect of Private Lonetree's actions "was probably minimal." In addition, he said, the marine's motivation, "was not treason or greed, but rather the lovesick response of a naive, young, immature and lonely troop in a lonely and hostile environment."

Justice4JP Note

: Note the enormous compassion that was shown to Lonetree,

the man who sold to the Soviets the floor plans of the American embassies in Vienna and Moscow as well as the names of intelligence agents working undercover at the Moscow embassy.

Lonetree was released in 1996 after serving only 9 years.

See Also:

  • The Lonetree Case
  • Unequal Justice
  • The Comparative Sentencing Charts
  • The Facts Page