Scientist Stewart Nozette has pleaded guilty to attempted espionage and will be sentenced this week to an anticipated 13 year prison term. But he never committed espionage in fact and he would never have considered the possibility if he had not been “manipulated and exploited” by FBI agents, his attorneys wrote in a lengthy rebuttal to a pre-sentencing memorandum filed by the government last week (“Scientist Nozette Called Brilliant, Greedy Traitor,” Secrecy News, March 13.)
“Contrary to poisonous inferences which the government spread on the public record in its initial Complaint and the detention hearing, this case is not about a man who had been committing acts of espionage for years,” Nozette’s attorneys wrote. “Rather this case is about the FBI wrongly suspecting Dr. Nozette was spying for Israel and then malevolently targeting him in the hopes they could ultimately ensnare him within the nation’s espionage laws.”
From their very first meeting, the FBI undercover agent “ignor[ed] Dr. Nozette’s stated intent not to provide classified information and overtly encourag[ed] him to proceed otherwise,” the attorneys wrote in what they said was simply an effort to correct the record.
“Dr. Nozette is neither attempting to withdraw from his plea nor evade responsibility for his conduct. His response to the UC’s [undercover agent’s] entreaties was inappropriate and ill-advised regardless of the devious, manipulative and exploitive nature of those overtures…. But it is important that the public, and the scientific community in particular, be aware of the tactics engaged in and the judgment, or lack thereof, exercised by the agents of the FBI and the Department of Justice in this case.”
“At the end of the day it was the agents of the FBI who approached Dr. Nozette, not the other way around; and it was those same agents who created, manipulated and exploited the circumstances that led to this offense and sadly to Dr. Nozette’s unnecessary fall and disgrace,” they concluded.
Government attorneys immediately filed a reply, rejecting what they called “spurious allegations and attacks against dedicated law enforcement agents.”
“In the end, defendant is the only person to blame for his predicament,” they wrote. “There is no excuse for betrayal of one’s country. There is no excuse for defendant’s conduct.”
Update: On March 21, Stewart Nozette was sentenced to a 13 year prison term.