Light Sentence For Lipka:
Another Example of Unequal Justice

Editors note: In the recent Nicholson and Lipka cases, while both of these men spied for enemies of the USA, and comitted the far more serious crime of treason, they received far lighter sentences than Jonathan Pollard, whose only offence was passing classified information to an ally.

The relatively light sentences that Nicholson and Lipka received only serve to underscore the grossly disproportionate life sentence that Jonathan Pollard received for a much lesser offence.

Man accused of Cold War espionage pleads guilty to spying

May 24, 1997 - Scott Bekker - Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- A former U.S. Army clerk charged with spying for the Soviet Union 30 years ago pleaded guilty Friday, avoiding a public trial that might have compromised a secret government witness.

Robert S. Lipka, a coin collector and gambler, cried before pleading to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage.

"This is a very difficult charge to plead guilty to," Lipka said.

Lipka, 51, had faced a possible death sentence, but in a plea agreement will be sentenced to no more than 18 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on Aug. 15.

The agreement also requires Lipka to sign over any book or movie proceeds to the government and to clear any public statements with government officials.

Lipka had previously threatened to reveal embarrassing government secrets on the Internet if his case were not dropped and had refused to sign a memorandum saying he wouldn't divulge government secrets before or after the trial.

"The defense is pleased with the plea bargain and recommended it strongly," said Lipka's attorney, Ronald F. Kidd Sr. "He's sorry for anything that he had done, and he regrets it."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Cohan said she wanted to prosecute Lipka for selling top-secret documents to the KGB for $27,000 from 1965 to 1967. But factors such as concealing the identity of the witness took priority.

"An awful lot of this case, because of the plea bargain, can remain classified," Cohan said.

Lipka, who was trained as an intelligence analyst and once had top-secret security clearance, was accused on Feb. 23, 1996, of selling U.S. secrets while working for the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md.

Responsible for distributing and destroying classified documents, he was accused of photographing documents with cameras the Soviets provided and smuggling the film out of the building in his clothing. He received up to $1,000 each time he dropped the film off in a park, prosecutors said.

The FBI said Lipka told an unidentified witness in the late 1960s that he was selling NSA materials to the Soviets and recounted the arrangements for an FBI agent posing as a Soviet spy in 1993.

He had also told the FBI agent that he'd seen a confidential file showing President Richard Nixon was a Communist spy and a secret message identifying the real killer of President John F. Kennedy.

Kidd said he and his client reconsidered the plea after they were told during a closed hearing last month what the secret witness would say.

Lipka spoke out of turn several times during the hearing Friday to make legal points that were corrected by the judge. At one point, he thanked the prosecutors.

"They've done a very good job and I have no animosity toward these people," said Lipka.

  • Unequal Justice