NY Times Obituary for Pollard Sentencing Judge

March 1, 2000 - Eric Pace

Aubrey E. Robinson Jr., 77, Judge in the Jonathan Pollard Spy Case

Aubrey E. Robinson Jr., chief judge of the United States District of Columbia Court for the District of Columbia from 1982 to 1992, died on Sunday at his home in Washington. He was 77.

The cause was a heart attack, the Associated Press reported.

In his most notable ruling, Judge Robinson handed down the severest sentence possible, life in prison, to Jonathan Jay Pollard, for spying on Israel's behalf.

The sentence for Mr. Pollard in 1987, which he is serving at the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, North Carolina, has proven enduringly controversial.

Since 1998, the Clinton administration has been reviewing a request from Israel that Mr. Pollard be released. Supporters of Mr. Pollard argue that a [plea agreement] deal, under which he was to have received a lesser sentence, was reneged on.

Judge Robinson pronounced his sentence on Mr. Pollard, then a 32 year-old former civilian intelligence analyst for the Navy, who had pleaded guilty to spying for Israel, in a highly emotional session in Federal District Court in Washington.

While the judge disclosed his sentence, the defendant's [former] wife Anne Henderson Pollard, then 26, fell to the floor screaming, "No! No!" Soon afterward, the judge sentenced her to two concurrent 5 year terms for her role in the espionage conspiracy.

Mr. Pollard had been privy to sensitive papers as a member of the the Navy's Anti-Terrorist Alert Center in Suitland Maryland.

The Justice Department had not called for a life sentence for him but for a "substantial" imprisonment. That imprecise request [which relied on the fact that the median sentence for such an offense is 2 to 4 years] was an ingredient of a plea agreement under which Mr. and Mrs. Pollard pleaded guilty and committed themselves to cooperate with the authorities.

But earlier in the proceedings Judge Robinson took issue with the defense's contentions that Mr. Pollard's criminal activity in providing Israel with classified information had not hurt the United States because the two countries were close allies. [In fact, the defense's contention was that the Government had not provided a shred of evidence that any damage had been done by Pollard, and indeed Pollard was never indicted for harming the United States. See Legal Texts Page.]

Mr. Pollard's lawyer, Richard A. Hibey, told Judge Robinson, "The damage here [if indeed there was any damage] is not serious damage to the United States. [See Legal Texts 1987, Part I: Damage to US.]

The judge replied, "I fail to see how you can make that claim," and he cited a classified affidavit from Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger that gave the main points of the damage done. [To this day, Jonathan Pollard has never been permitted to challenge the Weinberger document in a court of law. Weinberger has since stated that Robinson privately solicited Weinberger's last-minute submission without informing the defense counsel. See new Weinberger Bombshell.]

Judge Robinson was also known for his award of punitive damages to the surviving relatives of passengers who died in the crash of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, shot down in Soviet air space in 1983. But his decision was reversed on the ground that it was not justified under existing law.

A native of Madison, N.J., Aubrey Eugene Robinson, Jr. received a bachelor's degree and his law degree from Cornell University. After practicing law in Washington and serving briefly on a juvenile court there, he was appointed an associate judge of the district court in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who later named him chief judge.

Judge Robinson became a senior judge when he turned 70, in 1992, and remained on the bench until his death.

He married Sara Payne in 1946, and she died in 1972.

His survivors include his wife, the former Doris A. Washington, whom he married in 1973; two daughters, Paula Elaine Collins and Sheryl Robinson, both of San Francisco; a stepdaughter, Jaqueline Washington of Rockville Md.; a sister and a brother and two granddaughters.

NB [Clarifications in square brackets were inserted by Justice for Jonathan Pollard]

See Also:
  • Facts Page
  • Legal Texts Page