Clemency Appeal for Pollard Hits Wall

Attorney tells local synagogue he's been denied access to full sentencing file for his client

David Rogers - Palm Beach Daily News - December 1, 2003

The ineffective performance of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard's original attorney and the U.S. government's reluctance to reopen the case, are keeping the 49-year-old former Naval intelligence officer in federal prison, Pollard's current counsel, Eliot Lauer told members of the New Synagogue of Palm Beach Saturday.

On Nov. 12, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan denied two motions made by Lauer and his legal partner, Jacques Semmelman, to give them access to classified documents related to the case and for resentencing.

Pollard was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for giving thousands of pages of classified information to Israel. That country has for years pushed for clemency for Pollard. Advocates have said the United States is practicing a double standard since it has refused to shorten Pollard's term, while pushing Israel to release Palestinians that Israel considers dangerous, according to CBS News. Pollard is in a federal prison in North Carolina.

Federal prosecutors, Lauer said, originally consented in a plea agreement to not give Pollard a life sentence. A declaration made by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger a day before sentencing prompted what Lauer calls a breach in that agreement.

Pollard's original attorney, Lauer said, should have immediately appealed the life sentence. "Pollard's lawyer, Richard Hibey, did nothing," Lauer said. "This lawyer did not take three minutes out of his life to write a one-page notice to appeal."

Lauer also questions why the government will not let him review the full sentencing file on Pollard's case. The New York attorney said the government had allowed access to the file presumably to Justice Department officials 25 times between November 1993 and January 2001, when Pollard's attorneys at the time were attempting to appeal his sentence.

Lauer said he should be allowed to see the full sentencing file, considering the advocates for keeping Pollard in prison have been allowed to see it. "This is an issue of fairness," Lauer said.

Lauer encouraged audience members to write to Attorney General John Ashcroft and to their congressional representatives to persuade them to allow Pollard's counsel access to the file.

Lauer said he plans to ask the president to grant Pollard clemency and commute the sentence to time served, but wants full access to the sentencing file before making that appeal. Lauer said an appeal to the District Court of Appeals is set for Dec. 15.

Lauer took on the case pro bono at the urging of a prominent client he declined to name.

Rabbi Alan G. Ciner said he hopes "justice will prevail."

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