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Rosario Ames Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison in Spy Case

October 21, 1994 GMT

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ The wife of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames was sentenced to 5 1/4 years in prison today, after begging a federal judge for mercy for herself and her 5- year-old son.

The sentencing came after Rosario Ames read a statement admitting that she ″provided advice and support″ for her husband’s spying for the Soviet Union and then Russia. But she sought leniency so she could take care of their son Paul, now living with relatives in Bogota.

″I beg you, your honor, Paul needs me, Paul is innocent, he did nothing wrong,″ she told U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton in a quavering voice. ″I beg you to be merciful. ... Please understand that you are not only sentencing me, but Paul, too.″

Assistant United States Attorney Mark Hulkower did not recommend a specific sentence other than to ask for a sentence within the 63 to 72 months specified in the plea bargain.

With credit for eight months she has served since her arrest Feb. 21 and time off for good behavior in prison, Mrs. Ames could be released in 3 years and 8 months, prosecutors and defense attorneys said later.

Ames - imprisoned for life without parole - has admitted he was paid more than $2.5 million, compromised dozens of CIA operations and exposed numerous foreigners who were spying for the CIA. The government says at least 10 were executed.

Hilton sentenced the 41-year-old Colombian-born woman to the lowest term available under a plea bargain she struck with prosecutors when she pleaded guilty last April 28 to conspiring to commit espionage and evade taxes.

The plea bargain called for a sentence of between 63 and 72 months, but Hilton was not required to accept it and could have even sentenced her to 15 years.

Ames separately had urged the judge to give his wife less than 63 months, saying he committed the espionage and she helped only to protect her family.

Questioning of Ames will continue at the U.S. Penitentiary at Allenwood, Pa.

Earlier, her attorney, John Hume, said the plea bargain Mrs. Ames signed last spring under advice of her previous counsel was ″as Draconian as I’ve seen in 24 years in the practice of criminal law.″

Hume added, ″She was a victim of the worst form of spousal abuse.″

Mrs. Ames told the judge that after she learned of her husband’s spying in 1992, ″Rick made me believe that my life was constantly in danger. ... He would tell me that the KGB had asked for pictures of me and Paul.″

Hulkower attacked Mrs. Ames for conducting what he described as a public relations campaign ″to rewrite history.″

″There are a lot of victims in this,″ Hulkower said, mentioning the 10 foreigners who spied for the United States whom the government believes were executed because of Ames. ″But Mrs. Ames is not one of them,″ he said.

Hulkower said Mrs. Ames has portrayed her reaction to her husband’s spying as one of disgust, but that in mid-1992 ″after learning the source of her money she went with her husband to New York and happily spent $6,000 in KGB money″ in one weekend.

″Is this how Mrs. Ames expresses her revulsion?″ Hulkower asked.

″Mrs. Ames’ greed was her motivation for her participation,″ he said.

But Hulkower said if Mrs. Ames wanted a lower sentence, ″she should stand up in court and admit her guilt ... and stop complaining she did these crimes under duress.″

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Ames told the judge, ″I have never denied that I provided advice and support for my husband’s wretched and despicable espionage activities. That is why I pleaded guilty in April.″

Hume said he would request that the Bureau of Prisons house her in the federal prison camp in Danbury, Conn., which is near New York’s Kennedy Airport, so that it would be easier for her son to fly from Colombia to see her.

Specifically, Hilton sentenced Mrs. Ames to 63 months for conspiracy to commit espionage and 24 months for conspiracy to evade taxes. But he ordered that the sentences be served concurrently and noted that because the government has seized the assets of the couple a fine was not appropriate.