Woman seeks to erase atomic spying case conviction
NEW YORK A 98-year-old woman convicted on a conspiracy charge in the run-up to the atomic spying trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg found a much different atmosphere in court Monday than she encountered when she was convicted in 1950.
"Then it was electrifying. It is very sober today," Miriam Moskowitz said after a brief initial court hearing to determine how to proceed in a case she brought to erase her conviction.
Clutching a cane, Moskowitz said the passing decades and even a book she wrote hoping to "miraculously ignite a fire" to clear her name did not ease her pain.
"I think I need an official vindication," she told reporters.
Moskowitz, of Washington Township, New Jersey, was sentenced to two years in prison after her conviction on charges she conspired with two men to lie to a grand jury investigating allegations of atomic espionage. In court papers, Moskowitz's lawyers said they learned that the government withheld critical evidence for nearly 60 years when a federal judge in 2008 ordered the release of key secret grand jury testimony in the Rosenberg spy trial.
U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein instructed lawyers to ensure Moskowitz was able to participate in the case despite her hearing difficulties. He urged a speedy resolution.
"It's not a usual case and I think we need to address issues in a concerted fashion," he said.
A prosecutor said it was premature for the government to say whether it intends to oppose Moskowitz's request, but he added that it appeared the case could be decided based on transcripts from decades ago rather than the testimony of witnesses.
Moskowitz's lawyers say FBI and grand jury statements made by Harry Gold — the key government witness against her — were withheld from the defense. They say the papers show that Gold repeatedly told the FBI that Moskowitz was unaware of the plans of others to lie before the grand jury until the government threatened him with the death penalty.
The Rosenbergs were convicted of passing nuclear weapons secrets to the Soviet Union and were executed in 1953. Since then, decoded Soviet cables have appeared to confirm that Julius Rosenberg was a spy, but doubts have remained about Ethel Rosenberg's involvement.