Lonetree lawyers vow to appeal after conviction on spy charges. A court-martial panel reconvenes today to sentence Marine Sgt. Clayton Lonetree, the former embassy guard who was convicted of espionage on Friday. He could spend his life behind bars. But the case isn't over, his lawyers say.
Washington — The first United States marine ever convicted of espionage, Sgt. Clayton Lonetree, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Decision on a sentence is scheduled for today. On Friday, after four hours of deliberation, a court-martial jury of eight Marine officers convicted the former embassy guard of all 13 counts against him. Sergeant Lonetree was found guilty of two counts of spionage, each punishable by life imprisonment, and 11 less serious charges.
The charges against him included providing blueprints, floor plans, and information about office assignments at the US embassies in Vienna and Mscow and revealing the identities of US intelligence agents.
Under the military-justice system, each guilty verdict required the concurrence of at least six jurors.
In the military sentencing procedure, each juror makes a written recommenation for punishment on each count. The least punishment poposed by any juror becomes the entire jury's recommended sentence.
In closing arguments, a prosecutor told the jury that Sergeant Lonetree ``sold out his country'' when he passed information to the Soviet secret service, the KGB, during a romance with a Soviet woman.
The defense maintained that the 25-year-old marine's only violation was falling in love, then foolishly conducting a James Bond fantasy game with Soviet agents.
The chief military prosecutor, Maj. David L. Beck, rejected the argument that Lonetree's actions were just a youthful indiscretion. ``The defense, gentlemen, mistakes the fictional Walter Mitty for the real-life Benedict Arnold,'' Major Beck said.
``We shall appeal and we shall fight this to the end, and we hope, in the end, justice will prevail,'' said chief defense counsel William Kunstler. Lonetree's team can appeal to the Court of Military Appeals and then through the civilian court system.
The defense team says it was ``handcuffed'' by the judge's bias. Defense counsel Michael Stuhff said the military judge, Navy Capt. Philip F. Roberts, improperly allowed into evidence what the defense maintains were coerced confessions by Lonetree elicited through deception by naval investigators. The defense team also said Captain Roberts blocked witnesses crucial to the defense.
During the court-martial, which began July 22, the prosecution called 32 witnesses in seven days of testimony. The defense rested its case Friday without calling any witnesses.
After the verdict was announced Lonetree was silent, displaying little emotion as he was led handcuffed from the court to be transported to the Quantico Marine Base brig in Virginia, his home for the last eight months.
Authorities say the investigation began Dec. 14 when Lonetree contacted the Central Intelligence Agency's Vienna station chief and disclosed his involvement with Violetta Sanni, a Soviet translator at the US Embassy in Moscow. Lonetree said Ms. Sanni subsequently introduced him to her ``Uncle Sasha,'' a KGB agent whose real name is Aleksei Yefimov.
Lonetree was interrogated for several days - some of that time, according to defense counsel, without being advised of his legal rights. The defense says Lonetree, a ``bug on spy stories,'' was duped by naval investigators into believing he could become a double-agent.
According to Mr. Kunstler, the confessions Lonetree made during the interrogation were the products of a ``bungled investigation'' conducted by over zealous agents bent on catching a spy. The defense says Lonetree's crimes were blown out of proportion and that he turned over nothing of value in a misguided attempt to entrap a KGB agent.
Prosecutor Beck said to ``become a double agent, you first have to become a spy.'' The defense countered that Lonetree passed only information already known by the Soviets. Beck asked the jurors, ``Do you think they knew? What could the defendant possibly have thought it was for, other than aiding the Soviet cause?''
Beck said the KGB would not have paid for worthless information. ``He accepted $1,000 for something the defense would have you believe was nothing of value.''
John Barron, a former naval intelligence officer and an author of books on the KGB who testified as an expert witness, said an embassy guard would be a prize catch for the Soviets. He said the KGB wouldn't pay cash unless they thought the source valuable. Lonetree admitted accepting a total of $3,500.
Lonetree wept when Mr. Barron testified to routine KGB use of women operatives for sexual entrapment.
Kunstler attacked the confessions, saying the prosecution only used advantageous excerpts. The confessions also say, for example, that Lonetree attempted to hire a woman to seduce KGB agent Yefimov to facilitate blackmail. Lonetree further said he resisted Yefimov's request for the names of people who could be exploited because of alcohol, drug problems, or homosexuality, and instead gave the names of a born-again Christian and a recovering alcoholic.
Lonetree's mother, Sally Tsosie, said she never expected a fair trial for her son. ``American Indians are treated like this all through thecenturies and still today. I taught my son to be an honest, law-abiding citizen. All he was doing, he was being honest and turned himself in, and look how he's being treated.''
``I think the Marine Corps and the Marine justice system failed him,'' Kunstler said. ``I think the Corps pride and Corps pressure had a lot to do with these verdicts.''