Jonathan Pollard lost another round Friday in his effort to overturn his life sentence for giving military secrets to Israel while working as an intelligence analyst for the Navy.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Pollard waited too long to try to contest his 1987 sentence and rejected his claim that he was a victim of poor legal advice.
The court also said it had no authority to review Pollard's request to see classified documents the Reagan administration submitted to the judge who imposed the sentence 18 years ago. Pollard's lawyers said the material was critical to his appeal and any request for presidential clemency.
Pollard is serving the harshest sentence in the history of the United States for the one count of passing classified information to an ally with which he was charged. The median sentence for such an offense is 2 to 4 years. Pollard is currently serving his 20th year of a life sentence. Pollard's attorney, Eliot Lauer, said he was "very disappointed" with the opinion and may file a request for a rehearing from the full appeals court or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We hope that in time the American judicial system will give Jonathan Pollard his rightful day in court and that justice will be done," Lauer said. Pollard faulted his original lawyer for not appealing or otherwise contesting his sentence. He thought he had a deal to receive government support for a shorter sentence, but that the Reagan administration helped persuade a judge to put him behind bars for the rest of his life. Writing for a three-judge panel, Judge David Sentelle rejected the argument that Pollard did not realize the alleged mistake by his lawyer at the time.
The legal challenge to Pollard's sentence was always viewed as a long shot, and his supporters have focused much of their effort on winning presidential clemency.
Lauer said Pollard does not have a formal request for clemency pending with the Bush administration. Federal officials reviewed his case in 2000, but he was left off the list of those granted clemency just before President Clinton left office.
Pollard's lawyers want to see classified documents that may have helped sway the judge who sentenced Pollard, including a declaration from then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger outlining the security damage Pollard caused.
"We believe that Mr. Pollard's security-cleared counsel has an absolute need for this information and that the clemency process would be materially enhanced were Pollard's counsel to obtain access to this material," Lauer said.
Two members of the three-judge panel held that the courts have no jurisdiction to allow access to the court docket materials in this case. However, in a ten-page dissent, Judge Judith Rogers held that there plainly is such jurisdiction, as the government itself had conceded. Pollard's attorney pointed out that as was the case with the lower court's rulings, this ruling is largely procedural and does not address the appropriateness of the life sentence.
Lauer added that "in 1992, Judge Stephen Williams of the very same Court of Appeals called Mr. Pollard's life sentence "a fundamental miscarriage of justice requiring relief . . .' That relief was not granted today."
According to Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of Young Israel, who has championed the cause of securing freedom for Jonathan Pollard like no other individual and organization, the White House can only be expected to change its current policy when they "feel that the Jewish community cares about Pollard."
"We are collectively responsible and we - the greater Jewish community - needs to, once and for all, speak out, loudly and demand the release of Pollard," Rabbi Lerner pleads.
He added that during his last visit to Israel, he met with Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashuv, shlita, who clearly said that everyone should do everything they can to have Pollard released. (With Reporting by AP)