Cards Look Good for Pollard

January 28, 2000 - ABC News - Eric Wagner


- It looks like Jonathan Pollard, convicted more than 15 years ago of spying for Israel, may ask a federal court to re-examine his case in the coming months, hoping perhaps to capitalize on a rare confluence of New York politics and Middle East diplomacy.

Yes, a succession of Israeli prime ministers and American Jewish groups have pleaded with the White House for years to reduce Pollard's sentence or pardon him altogether. President Clinton rejected these appeals twice, but more than a year ago agreed to review Pollard's case.

Although the relevant agencies submitted their (reportedly negative) recommendations almost a year ago, the White House has so far refused to announce the result of the "review". Which suggests to some that Pollard's fate may be linked to an overall Middle East peace agreement, perhaps an American gesture to sweeten the peace deal for the Israeli public.

And in New York, Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has found that both her likely opponent and most New York City Democrats favor an early release for Pollard.

Enter Larry Dub. By way of a series of successful Israeli High Court decisions for his client, Pollard's main lawyer has forced Israel to admit that Pollard was an agent in its employ (rather than a 'rogue' operator); to grant Pollard citizenship; and to legally pledge to help Pollard get out of prison.

Pollard refuses to be interviewed by ABCNEWS, but sources say and documents recently released on his Web site appear to indicate that he will argue that his original lawyers and his sentencing judge made substantive and procedural errors in his case.

Pollard's original lawyer apparently missed a deadline to file an appeal of his sentence, and the sentencing judge ignored the plea agreement that Pollard struck with federal prosecutors.

Pollard's lawyers seem to believe that a federal judge reviewing a request to reopen the case would seek comment from the other party to the case - the U.S. government.

That could, in turn, force the Justice Department to signal its support, opposition or ambivalence about the matter. Either way, the administration, which has held the Pollard card for some time, would be forced to show its hand. Mrs. Clinton could be asked what she thinks about reopening the case.

With a peace deal among Israel, Syria, and the Palestinians within reach, with a tight Senate election race in New York, and with a president in his final year in office, Pollard may find the planets better aligned than they have been in years.

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