LOS ANGELES (AP) — A retired FBI agent who lied about his affair with a suspected Chinese double agent was sentenced yesterday to probation and fined $10,000 after apologizing for his behavior.
“I have nobody but myself to blame for being here today,” James J. Smith said. “I stand before you ashamed and humiliated by my actions, and all I can do is apologize.”
Standing before Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, Smith said: “I apologize to your honor, to the court and to the citizens of the United States.”
Smith, 61, at one time faced up to five years in prison for lying to the FBI about his two-decade affair with accused Chinese double agent Katrina Leung. A plea agreement allowed him to cooperate with the government in return for leniency.
Smith pleaded guilty in May to a single count of making a false statement — admitting that he had a sexual relationship with Miss Leung and lied about it to the FBI. He never was charged with mishandling classified information. The government contended that Miss Leung, a paid informant working with him, had access to such information during their affair.
The case against Miss Leung, who was charged separately, was dismissed earlier because of misconduct by the government. The judge found that prosecutors blocked Miss Leung’s access to the person who would have been her most critical defense witness — Smith.
The government has indicated it will ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to have Miss Leung’s case reinstated.
Smith was the longtime handler of Miss Leung, a naturalized U.S. citizen and socialite recruited more than 20 years ago to work for the FBI by gathering intelligence during her frequent business trips to China. Prosecutors claimed she was a double agent for China, beginning around 1990.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Lonergan surprised the judge with a last-minute motion asking for Smith to serve two months in prison despite his cooperation. She argued that Smith caused a grave danger to national security and said he claimed he could not recall some details of what he told Miss Leung.
But the judge concluded that prison time was not warranted.