Pollard Court Hearing Adjourns Without New Ruling

Janine Zacharia - Jerusalem Post - September 2, 2003

The US District Court in Washington adjourned Tuesday without ruling on whether convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard should be enabled to continue his long-term bid to have his life sentence reduced or wiped out.

Pollard was at the hearing, his first public appearance since his sentencing in 1987. Wearing a white, knitted kippah and dressed in a green prison uniform, with the name of the North Carolina prison where he is serving his time - Arlington County Jail - imprinted on the back, Pollard entered the court room and flashed a quick smile at his supporters, including his wife Esther who has long campaigned for his release.

Among his backers was the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who flew from Israel to show his support for Pollard. After the 90-minute hearing, Eliyahu led a group of a dozen men in prayer outside the courthouse in the pouring rain.

"They should send him to Jerusalem," Eliyahu said. "What do they want with him here." On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman, Raanan Gissin, declined to comment on the court hearing, but told the AP that Israel was still trying to have Pollard released.

"We are using all our efforts to get him released," Gissin said, adding that this has been the policy of every Israeli government since the "regrettable incident." Before the hearing, Pollard's father, Morris, said he was "full of hope. But we've had lots of dashed hopes."

Pollard's lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, were seeking two key things - permission to view classified documents filed by the US government shortly before Pollard's sentencing, and a new hearing during which they could demonstrate that Pollard received ineffective counsel during his sentencing.

Pollard, a former Navy analyst, in 1987 pled guilty and agreed to a plea bargain under which prosecutors had promised not to seek a life prison term.

But the judge, after receiving the classified government papers, including documents from former secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger, awarded Pollard a life sentence anyway. His life sentence was the most severe prison term every given for spying for an ally. In August 2001, US District Court Judge Norma Holloway dismissed, on procedural grounds, a similar motion brought by Pollard's lawyers for re-sentencing.

Pollard's lawyers argued then - as they did again Tuesday - that Pollard was ineffectively represented by his attorney at the time of his sentencing since he failed to file a notice of appeal.

But Judge Holloway dismissed the motion, saying that a statute of limitations for resentencing had expired. Pollard's lawyers on Tuesday asked for reconsideration of that ruling.

But Judge Thomas Hogan did not rule on that request or the request to see the classified documents, saying he would take time to consider other legal cases submitted by the prosecution and the defense. A decision could take several weeks.

Pollard's lawyers argued that they had a "need to know" what was in the sealed, classified documents to better argue on behalf of clemency for their client, considered three times by President Clinton.

While the government has challenged the lawyers' need to know, Lauer pointed out that the sealed document had been viewed 25 times by people evaluating his appeals for clemency. Lauer called it a "government falsehood" that he and his colleague Jacques Semmelman did not have adequate security clearance to view the documents.

"In the interest of justice we urge your honor to grant us access," Lauer said. Judge Hogan expressed concern that allowing Pollard's lawyers a new hearing to show Pollard had received ineffective counsel could lead to a flood of similar appeals. But Semmelman insisted that Pollard's case was unique since he had been duped by the government and by his own lawyer.

Esther Pollard said after the hearing: "It is very clear that the interests of justice have not been served in my husband's case." She said the court should grant her husband a new hearing so he could "receive a fair sentence."

Judge Hogan, appearing somewhat sympathetic* toward the end of the hearing, enquired if Pollard was still in solitary confinement or mixed with the general prison population. Lauer said that he had been integrated with the general population for six years. (J4JP: The judge's question and demeanor has been misinterpreted. SEE J4JP Notes below for clarification.)

Pollard was convicted of espionage for giving Israel tens of thousands* of top-secret documents (J4JP: Not true! See J4JP Notes below). Israel has acknowledged that Pollard was its agent and has granted him citizenship. There is some dispute over whether Israel has returned to the US all of the documents.

*J4JP Notes

Judge Hogan's demeanor was professional not "somewhat sympathetic." His enquiry about whether or not Jonathan is still in solitary confinement was simply a means of acessing whether indeed the government really believes that Jonathan still poses any danger. If the government really believed that Jonathan still knows sensitive information, he would not be in open population. Lauer indicated that Jonathan has been in open population at FCI Butner for the last 10 years (not 6 as indicated above.)

It should also be noted that Jonathan did not supply Israel with "tens of thousands of top-secret documents" See the Facts Page, points 20 and 21 for clarification.

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