Jonathan Jay Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel, appeared in federal court yesterday for the first time in 16 years as his attorneys sought access to a secret report used in a judge’s decision to give him a life prison term.
Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Pollard to appear at the hearing on whether to give his lawyers access to the sentencing report produced by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1985.
Eliot Lauer, one of Pollard’s attorneys, said during the hearing that the government denied 20 pages of the Weinberger memorandum to Pollard because, it claimed, unauthorized disclosure of the secrets there might cause grave damage to U.S. national security.
“I urge you grant us access in the interest of justice,” Mr. Lauer said. “This file is part of the case. … We just want access. Two security-cleared lawyers should be given access to this material at the Department of Justice.”
Judge Hogan said access to the memo was denied on earlier requests in 1990, 2000 and 2001.
Steven Pelak, an assistant U.S. attorney, said at the hearing that earlier rulings denying Pollard access to the memo should stand. “At this time the defense has simply not shown the need to know.”
Pollard, 49, entered the courtroom wearing a dark-green prison suit from the Arlington County jail. Looking grayer and heavier than when he last appeared in court at his 1987 sentencing, the convicted spy sat with his hands folded during about 90 minutes of oral arguments.
Attorneys for Pollard said after the procedural hearing they did not know why Judge Hogan ordered Pollard to appear. He was brought from a federal prison in North Carolina.
Several members of Pollard’s family were in the courtroom, including his father, Morris Pollard. A group of rabbis, including Israel’s former chief rabbi, HaRav Eliayhu, also were present.
Judge Hogan said he will rule later on the two motions. The first motion would grant Pollard’s lawyers access to the secret sentencing memorandum. The second would allow another hearing to reconsider Pollard’s sentence.
Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to espionage after he was arrested while trying to flee to the Israeli Embassy in Northwest Washington on Nov. 21, 1985.
He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 as part of a plea agreement.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, said he has written to President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft asking that Pollard’s prison term be commuted to time served.
“Jonathan Pollard committed a very serious crime,” Mr. Weiner told reporters after the hearing. “He is also a victim of bad faith on the part of the government. … He should never have served a sentence this long.”