How many of you remember what you were doing 26 years ago, I barely do. Thank goodness for Google. Reagan was President, H.W. Bush was his Vice President, we were paying a staggering $1.20 for a gallon of gas and I for one was finding a lot less hair in the shower each morning. But to Jonathan Pollard, another New Year has come and gone and nothing has changed. Sad and beaten, deteriorated in health and with no end in sight, Pollard began serving his 27th year in Federal prison this past Nov.
Since writing my first article on the Pollard case in September, 2010, “Jonathan Pollard: It’s Time to Let Him Go,” much support has been garnered both domestically and internationally for his release but to this date he still languishes in jail at Butner Penitentiary in North Carolina; more a political prisoner serving an unjust sentence than for a crime he did not plead to. http://jewishcrusader.blogspot.com/2012/01/jonathan-pollard-its-time-to-let-him-go.html
As stated in my earlier article, this isn’t going to be some tear jerk, sugar coated, die for Pollard story. What he did was dastardly. To betray a country whose constitution you’ve sworn to uphold is nothing short of despicable, no matter how righteous the cause. Sanctimonious motivations aside, he allegedly admitted to receiving $10,000 in cash and $1500.00 a month for additional classified material to be given to his Israeli handler, an Israeli Air Force colonel, Aviem Sella. So let there be no doubt, Pollard was not a choir boy. However, from the outset his plea agreement which was offered by the government and accepted by him was not recognized by the presiding judge.
The terms of the agreement which Pollard signed onto allowed him to plead guilty to: “One count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government.” By doing so, his wife Anne also was allowed to plead out for her complicity in the crime. She served 3 years of a 5 year term and was released. In accordance with the plea, and to avoid life imprisonment, Pollard agreed to cooperate fully with a government espionage assessment team and pledged non-disclosure of sensitive material he had privy to. A proviso he lived up to. However, the judge, Aubrey Robinson Jr. wasn’t having any of it and sentenced him to life.
What was his justification in doing so? Prior to sentencing, the judge requested a memorandum from former Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger. Weinberger issued a damage assessment very much at odds with that of the government’s own assessment which allowed for the more lenient sentencing. Submitted at the last moment, Pollard’s attorneys were only given brief access to this document moments before sentencing. Soon after they became classified and Pollard’s Defense team were denied introgression. If ever a man was railroaded in American jurisprudence, Pollard’s the guy. Read the interview with Casper Weinberger excerpted from Middle East Quarterly-Fall 199 Edition. http://www.jonathanpollard.org/1999/100099.htm
So where are the mitigating factors? They abound. It’s quite clear from the time Pollard entered his plea to his sentencing ten months later, Judge Robinson upped the ante on him, no longer content with the second tier of the espionage statute to which he plead guilty: “to the advantage of a foreign nation,” Pollard was sentenced on the more severe first: “to the injury of the United States.” Based upon the influence of false information supplied by Weinberger, the judge simply failed to honor the deal brokered between the defense and the prosecution. In effect, Pollard was tricked into waiving his right to a fair trial by accepting a plea, only to have the terms of that plea rescinded.
To further this injustice, Pollard did file one of several appeals that dealt with this issue but was denied in a two to one ruling for failure of his original attorneys to file the appeal in a timely manner. It seems like only common sense that the man should have been allowed to withdraw his plea and take his chances with a jury trial, particularly since the plea he entered was to avoid a life sentence which he received anyway. To some, seeking an extra pound of flesh, 26 years in prison, many of which spent in solitary confinement just isn’t enough. Take the Court jester, Vice President Biden. While discussing the possibility of clemency with President Obama this past Fall, he’s quoted in a New York Times article as saying, “Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,”…. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.” http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=240155
As the following tables will attest, since Pollard is the only person in U.S. history to receive life for spying for an American ally, the above quotes are strange even for Biden. Today the maximum sentence for such an offense would be 10 years; the median being 2 to 4. Keep in mind because it’s worth repeating, Pollard is entering his 27th year behind bars.
Since his unjust sentencing, and for as much good as it has done him, successive Administrations have been petitioned for Pollard’s release, so far to no avail. But the non-partisan chorus of protest over the past two years is growing exponentially. In 2010, soon to be retired Barney Frank garnered 38 Democratic House signatures petitioning the President for clemency. More recently, in a letter to President Obama this past November 8, 2011, 18 former U.S. Senators also petitioned the President for Pollard’s release. In part the letter stated:
“We do not condone espionage, nor do we underestimate the gravity of Pollard’s crime, But it is patently clear that Mr. Pollard’s sentence is severely disproportionate and (as several federal judges have noted) a gross miscarriage of justice.”
On May 18, 2011, a group of distinguished Americans likewise threw their prestige behind Pollard’s release by likewise petitioning President Obama. The group included, former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former U.S. Attorney General, Michael Muckasey, former White House Counsel, Bernard W. Nussbaum, Senator Dennis DeConcini, former Chief of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Alan K. Simpson, Co-Chair of the President’s Economic Commission, former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, and most significantly, Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of State under Casper Weinberger in the Reagan Administration.
In September, 2010, Korb wrote the following letter to President Obama on Pollards behalf:
September 27, 2010
Dr. Lawrence J. Korb
203 Yoakum Pkwy Apt 908
Alexandria. VA 22304
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As Assistant Secretary of Defense a the time of Jonathan Pollard’s arrest I respectfully request that you exercise your power of clemency on behalf of Mr. Pollard who has now been in prison for 25 years.
Jonathan Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for passing classified information to an American ally.
Based on my first-hand knowledge, I can say with confidence that the severity of Pollard’s sentence is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy on the part of my boss at the time, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
Secretary Weinberger submitted two affidavits to the court in order to convince the judge to give Pollard a harsher sentence than the one requested by the government, despite Pollard admitting guilt, plea bargaining and cooperating with the government. The government committed to not seeking a life sentence but due to the Weinberger Affidavits, the redacted version of which I have read, Mr. Pollard received a disproportionate life sentence.
Secretary Weinberger omitted his crucial involvement in the Pollard case from his memoirs and when asked by the famed investigative journalist Edwin Black, about the omission, Weinberger indifferently responded, “Because it was, in a sense, a very minor matter, but made very important.” Asked to explain, Weinberger continued, “As I say, the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance.” When asked why this was so, Weinberger replied “I don’t know why-it just was.”
Mr. Pollard was not charged with harming America and has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions. Furthermore, the average sentence for his offense is 2-4 years and today the maximum sentence is 10 years. Justice would best be served by commuting Pollard’s sentence to the time he has already spent in prison.
Oh cynical me, more so now than ever, if he can only hold out until November, I do believe Pollard will finally be freed this year. Following an indisputably anti-Israel bias the past three and a half years and losing Jewish voters and supporters of Israel in droves; ever the Chicago politician, President Obama is almost certain to make a magnanimous gesture to his formerly faithful voting block and finally release this broken man from his incarceration.