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Sentenced on Gun-Running Charges

March 7, 1985 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ An attorney for a man who was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to gun-running charges says his client believed he was working for the U.S. government. But a judge said the charges ″had nothing to do″ with any government work.

George Gregary Korkala, 42, of Nutley, N.J., claimed the federal government knew and approved of his attempt to sell 10,000 machine guns and 10 million rounds of ammunition to undercover detectives posing as Latin American revolutionaries in February 1979.

Manhattan Judge Thomas B. Galligan rejected that claim and sentenced Korkala on Wednesday to five to 15 years in prison.

″I have no doubt he did things for the U.S. government,″ Galligan said, ″but the prosecution here had nothing to do with his government service.″

Korkala told the judge, ″Your honor, I wish to apologize to the court, the district attorney and my family. ... This has been a terrible thing in my life. I told the truth, and I’m asking for mercy from the court.″

Under a plea-baragain agreement, Galligan sentenced Korkala to two to six years on two counts of third-degree criminal possession a dangerous weapon and one count of manufacture, transport and disposition of dangerous instruments. The judge also sentenced him to five to 15 years for first-degree criminal possession of a dangerous weapon, and ordered the terms served concurrently.

″I think he got shafted,″ said Korkala’s lawyer, Angelo Bianchi. ″I think the guy was working for the government.″

Korkala still faces federal charges of conspiring to sell guns, ammunition and coding devices in 1979 to the regime of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Korkala was arrested in February 1979 with former CIA agent Frank Terpil in connection with the sale of the 10,000 machine guns and ammunition. While free on $100,000 bail each, they fled to Beirut, Lebanon. They were tried in absentia, convicted, and sentenced by Galligan to 17 to 53 years in prison.

The two surfaced in Beirut in November 1981 when they gave a joint interview to the CBS-TV news program ″60 Minutes.″

Korkala was arrested in February 1982 at a weapons and security exhibition in Madrid, Spain, following a tip to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office.

The Spanish government agreed to extradite Korkala if American authorities promised to give him a new trial, but Korkala pleaded guilty in a deal with the district attorney’s office.

Terpil remains at large and is believed to be in the Middle East.