The U.S. Government's Double Cross On The Plea Agreement

January 30, 1997 - Esther Pollard - Special to IMRA

In an article in Moment magazine (February 1993), editor Hershel Shanks attempts to explain Jonathan's grossly disproportionate sentence and states that one of the reasons that he received a life sentence is that he had disobeyed the judge by giving an interview to the press.

The fact of the matter is that neither Judge Robinson nor the Government barred Jonathan from talking to the press. If he wanted to meet with a reporter, all he had to do was obtain written permission from the Bureau of Prisons and restrict his comments to the Classification Guidelines established for such interviews. And this is exactly the procedure Jonathan followed for both of the discussions he had with Wolfe Blitzer prior to his sentencing.

The Government, however, did something highly suspicious on both of these occasions, namely, they "forgot" to send anyone to monitor these interviews. Later, at sentencing, the prosecutor successfully inflamed the judge against Jonathan by claiming that not only had the interviews been secretly arranged behind their backs, but that Jonathan had also disclosed highly classified material to Blitzer, which compromised the Intelligence community's "sources and methods."

The prosecutors further held that his interviews constituted such a flagrant breach of the Plea Agreement that they were, in effect, an insult to the court's authority. In view of this, the prosecutors went on, the judge was urged to impose a sentence commensurate with Jonathan's "treason, arrogance and continuing threat to national security." Treason, of course, was a false charge. Jonathan was never indicted, charged or convicted of treason.

Of course, the fact that Jonathan had obtained permission to talk to Blitzer, that it was the Government's responsibility - not his - to assure that somebody was present to monitor the interviews, and that Jonathan was never officially charged with having disclosed confidential information to Blitzer, all seems to have been lost on Judge Robinson, who subsequently handed Jonathan the harshest sentence he could - life.

Commenting on this turn of events several years later, Wolfe Blitzer stated it appeared that the go-ahead Jonathan had been given to talk with him was part of a calculated scheme by the prosecutors designed to justify their planned violation of the Plea Agreement. Blitzer's take of this incident was eventually confirmed by none other than the government prosecutor, Joseph DiGenova who bragged to Robert Friedman of the Village Voice that he'd hoped the interviews would be the "rope" with which Jonathan would hang himself.

What Digenova conveniently failed to mention, of course, was that he'd placed the noose around Jonathan's neck and kicked the chair out from under his feet. But then again, why should DiGenova have been expected to remember such minor details?