Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Christopher Boyce & Andrew Daulton Lee

Two Trials

Prosecuting Boyce and Lee for espionage ran the risks of all such trials. A public airing of the sources and methods of the crimes could further damage U.S. national security. Government officials were always on guard that too much not be revealed. In fact, the CIA and National Security Agency had concluded that the Department of Justice would have to drop the charges if the judge gave defense lawyers too much access to sensitive information.

Boyce and Lee were tried separately since their defenses were not congruent.  Both proceedings were held before U.S. District Judge Robert Kelleher.  Tall and gray-haired, his reputation was that he was tough but fair.

Joel Levine and Richard Stilz were the prosecutors.  Levine was slim and bespectacled; Stilz shaggy-haired and mustachioed.  Both were young, talented, and ambitious.  Successfully trying such a high-profile espionage case could only advance their careers.   They approached the job with undisguised gusto.

Boyce's lawyer, George Chelius, had a balding dome and a thick mustache. Co-counsel was William Dougherty, thick chested and silver-haired.  Chelius had never handled a criminal case.  He was hired because Charles Boyce knew, liked, and respected him.  The elder Boyce had supervised Chelius when he worked as a security specialist.  Dougherty, a former Marine, once prosecuted organized crime figures while working for the Justice Department. A superb litigator,  his close-cropped hair and upright posture conveyed military solidity.

Boyce's defense was two-pronged.  Chelius and Dougherty argued that the material Boyce had transferred to the Russians had been over classified. The documents were of little value to American security, they asserted.

Chelius and Dougherty also claimed Lee masterminded the entire operation. Lee had blackmailed a reluctant Boyce.  According to their story, Boyce once wrote a letter stating his objections to CIA manipulations. Lee promised to take the note to his father, who had influential friends.  Those friends would make the letter's contents public and thus expose the CIA's dirty deeds.

Boyce was shocked when Lee later told him that he had sold the missive to the Soviets.  When Boyce calmed down — according to his story — Lee told him he now had to turn over secret materials for him to ferry to the Russians in Mexico City. Otherwise, the original sale would be revealed to the authorities and/or Boyce's ex-FBI agent father.  Boyce complied with Lee's demands by turning over documents he believed were outdated or unimportant.

Unlike many defendants, Boyce took the witness stand.  He repeatedly, brazenly perjured himself.

Defense lawyer Dougherty gently asked, "Did you ever willfully transmit information relating to the national defense to anybody at all with the belief that it would be used by — to an advantage by a foreign nation?"

"No, sir," Boyce firmly replied.

"And did you ever willfully or knowingly act as an agent for a foreign government?" his attorney asked.

"Not willfully," Boyce said, "but I knew that's what I had become."  But it was not his fault, he insisted.

Hutton and Penn as Boyce and Lee, escorted
Hutton and Penn as Boyce and Lee, escorted

The jury was unimpressed by Boyce's tale.  After less than three and a half hours of deliberations, they found Boyce guilty on all eight counts of espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage.  He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Kenneth Kahn defended Lee.  Kahn was called the "hippie lawyer" for frequently defending accused drug dealers.  The title may also have had something to do with his self-consciously "mod" appearance.  Kahn was given to sporting wire-rimmed aviator glasses, and a full but neatly trimmed beard and mustache.  The beard was starting to gray.  Assisting Kahn was Donald Re, a Princeton graduate with a patrician style.

Kahn and Re argued that Lee, and Christopher Boyce as well, were actually working for the CIA. Their job was to supply false and misleading information to the Soviet Union.  Once the mission had been completed, the CIA had abandoned these good Americans.  "[Lee] is an outright capitalist," Kahn told the jury, "He's a right-on American."

Lee's jury would deliberate far longer than Boyce's.  After discussing the case for two days, eleven members of the jury voted guilty.  But there was a holdout.  The CIA was notoriously stealthy, mysterious, and deceptive.  They could have been behind this scheme, the female holdout juror believed.  At least, there was some room for reasonable doubt.

The other members of the jury reviewed the evidence with her once again. The dissenter stood by her opinion at first. Her vote eventually changed and Lee was convicted on every count.

Six days later, the juror changed her mind yet again. While Lee awaited his sentence, Kahn and Re filed a letter from the juror to Judge Kelleher. The letter said the jurors had violated both their oaths and the judge's instructions. She claimed that some jurors had said they thought Lee was guilty before the trial even got underway.  She also claimed that Christopher Boyce's conviction was known to them (as it was not supposed to be) and discussed in the jury room.  She also said she had changed her vote because of inappropriate pressure from the other jurors. She still harbored reasonable doubts about Lee's guilt.

Judge Robert Kelleher, U.S. District Court
Judge Robert Kelleher, U.S. District Court

Kelleher interviewed other members of the jury, and then ruled that there were no grounds for a new trial.  Later, he sentenced Lee to life in prison.  Although  Kelleher did not say so, he may have given Lee a heavier sentence than Boyce  because of Lee's prior criminal record. The friends turned convicts were both sent to Lompoc Federal Prison in California.

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