US spy's sentence gives Pollard activists hope

US soldier sentenced to 19 years in jail for attempted espionage gives activists hope that Obama will commute Pollard's sentence.

Pollard protest outside president's residence 370 (photo credit: Gil Hoffman)
Pollard protest outside president's residence 370
(photo credit: Gil Hoffman)
An American soldier was sentenced to 19 years in prison for attempted espionage and related charges on Monday, giving activists renewed hope that US President Barack Obama will commute the life sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to the 27 and a half years he has served.
Army Specialist William Colton Millay, 24, was sentenced late on Monday after a military hearing at Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson in Anchorage.
He was stationed there when he was arrested in October 2011. Federal officials said Millay admitted to trying to pass on classified information to someone he believed was a Russian agent.
The native of Owensboro, Kentucky, pleaded guilty in March to attempted espionage, failing to obey regulations, issuing a false statement, soliciting another to commit espionage and communicating national defense information.
Although he was sentenced to 19 years in prison, he will serve 16 years under a plea agreement, with time served in pre-trial confinement taken into account, federal officials said. He was also demoted to private and will receive a dishonorable discharge, they said.
American officials working to bring about Pollard’s release said the sentence of Millay, who intended to harm the United States, was an important reminder of how disproportionate Pollard’s sentence is. They noted that recently declassified CIA documents indicated that Pollard, who spied for an ally, did not harm the US.
“No one disputes America’s right and obligation to punish those who break US laws, but 28 years is too much considering the shorter sentences received by people who committed similar and worse crimes,” the Free Pollard campaign said. “We hope President Obama will answer the requests of top current and former American officials to commute Pollard’s sentence out of mercy and justice.”
Millay was detained after making what prosecutors said were overtures to a woman he believed was representing the Russian government.
The woman was actually an agent for the FBI, officials said.
“Millay betrayed his nation’s trust by attempting to sell classified national defense information for profit to a foreign nation,” Deirdre Fike, FBI special agent in charge in Anchorage, said.
According to a document filed by Millay in the US District Court, where investigative elements of the case were considered briefly, he met the woman he knew as “Natalia” at a restaurant in an Anchorage hotel.
Millay told the woman he had access to information regarding Army electronic systems capable of blocking cellphone-detonated improvised explosive devices.
Millay, who joined the Army in 2007, had a tour of duty in Iraq from December 2009 to July 2010 and was assigned to Elmendorf- Richardson in May 2011, officials said.
An eight-soldier panel of officers and senior noncommissioned officers imposed the sentence, US Army officials said.