WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Monday let stand the conviction of Clayton Lonetree, the central figure in the 'sex-for- secrets' scandal at the Moscow Embassy and the only U.S. Marine ever found guilty of spying.
The court, without comment, declined to hear Lonetree's appeal, which came 5 years after his court-martial for giving classified details about the inner workings of the embassy to KGB agents.
Lawyers for Lonetree had argued that his initial confession to government agents should not have been used to convict him because he had been promised the revelations would be 'held in confidence.'
They also claimed Lonetree's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him was violated when the military court let an intelligence agent testify without ever revealing his true identity.
Lonetree's 1987 court-martial at the Quantico, Va., Marine Base led to a 30-year prison term, which was later reduced to 25 years.
But Lonetree may yet be entitled to a resentencing that could cut more years off the prison term.
The U.S. Court of Military Appeals ordered a hearing to determine if he should get a new sentence because his civilian attorneys -- namely civil rights lawyer William Kunstler -- gave him 'bizarre and untenable advice' not to accept a plea bargain that could have led to a 10-year sentence.
The government did not appeal that aspect of the ruling.
Lonetree is now represented by other attorneys, who will have a chance to argue for a reduced sentence.
In the mid-1980s, while the Cold War was still raging, Lonetree became romantically involved with a Russian national while working as one of a battalion of Marines guarding the American Embassy in Moscow.
Lonetree's lover, Violetta, introduced him to the KGB, and Lonetree eventually began giving information to a KGB agent.
In December 1986, shortly after being transferred to the American Embassy in Austria, Lonetree approached a U.S. intelligence agent at a Christmas party and began admitting details of his link to the Soviets.
This agent and another, known as 'Big John' and 'Little John', talked to Lonetree numerous times over a 10-day period and promised him confidentiality, but then turned the information -- and Lonetree -- over to the Naval Investigative Service in London.
Lonetree later signed a confession with the NIS that he claimed was coerced.
Lonetree maintained at court-martial that he was giving away useless information in an effort to act as a self styled double-agent against the Soviets, but sought help after becoming too deeply involved.
Lonetree also is an American Indian, and Kunstler repeatedly charged outside the court-martial that he was being singled-out because of his race.
At trial, the government was allowed to present the testimony of a U. S. intelligence agent known to the public and to Lonetree's attorneys only as 'John Doe.'
Lonetree's lawyers had agreed to allow him to testify under a false name and out of public view, but said they needed to know his identity for background checks and to prepare proper cross-examination.
But the judge did not give them access to that information, and 'John Doe' offered crucial testimony that corroborated a statement Lonetree had given to the intelligence agents in Vienna.
The U.S. Court of Military Appeals, by a divided vote, upheld a lower court finding that Lonetree's confessions in Vienna were not made to 'police agents' and so his rights were not violated by a false promise of confidentiality.
Three judges ruled that there was no problem with the actions of 'Big John' and 'Little John,' one said their false promises violated Lonetree's rights but his later confession to the INS still may be admissible, and one said the promises were illegal but were 'harmless error' that should not affect the conviction.
The government claims Lonetree handed over to the Soviets classified materials including information on the physical layout of the embassy, security measures, and the identification of American embassy officers whose duties might interest the Soviets.
Lonetree maintained that the Soviets already had access to any information he gave them.
The 'sex for secrets' scandal led to the recall of the entire 28- member contingent of Marine guards from the Moscow embassy.
Three other Marines faced lesser charges in connection with the scandal.NEWLN: ------NEWLN: 92-1095 Clayton J. Lonetree vs. United States