LOS ANGELES -- Accused Soviet spy Richard Miller was 'the joke of the FBI,' but he was allowed to remain an agent by supervisors who coddled him because of their shared Mormon faith, his former boss testified Wednesday.
'I knew Miller since 1965, and from my personal knowledge, he was a bumbler,' said Bernardo 'Matt' Perez, a former administrative special agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office.
'He was in all sorts of trouble. He was more than the office joke. He was the FBI joke. There were R.W. Miller jokes all through the office.'
Perez said he talked to Miller about his poor performance and appearance, but said Miller put on an 'act.'
'He was unkempt, dirty-looking, fat,' Perez said. 'He was wearing black and white canvas, checked shoes and I said, 'What's the matter with you?' He began talking to me like a child, saying, 'Oh, I don't know what's happening to me, I can't get a hold of myself.'
'I'd seen that act before. I told him I thought it was unfair that we had regulations other agents could be fired for and he was allowed to stay in the FBI.'
Perez's testimony came exactly one year after Miller became the only FBI agent ever charged with espionage. Prosecutors claim he passed at least one secret document to his Soviet lover, Svetlana Ogorodnikova, in exchange for sex and a promised $65,000.
Miller, 48, has denied he passed the documents and insists he was using Ogorodnikova in a maverick plot to infiltrate the KGB. His attorneys have portrayed him as an inept agent whose poor work was overlooked by what they call the 'Mormon Mafia' of the Los Angeles FBI.
Defense attorneys called Perez to back their claims that Miller was retained because of Mormon favoritism and eventually singled out to quell those rumors. Perez has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, claiming he was not promoted because he is Catholic. He now heads the FBI office in El Paso.
Perez's testimony was heard out of jury earshot so U.S. District Judge David Kenyon could determine if it was relevant to the trial.
Perez said he believed Miller was retained out of favoritism. He said Richard Bretzing, head of the Los Angeles office and a Mormon bishop, rejected Perez's recommendation in December 1982 that Miller be fired for continual violation of FBI weight standards.
'I believe it happened because they are both Mormons,' Perez said. 'I saw it happen with other Mormons and only Mormons.'
The comment, ordered stricken from the record, was a response to a question by U.S. Attorney Robert Bonner about whether Perez had personal knowledge that Bretzing's actions were based on his shared Mormon faith with Miller.