Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Jonathan Jay Pollard Spy Case

The Spy Sings

Another looming question is why did Israel fail to rescue their agent? The reason has never been made public. Some have speculated that Israel knew it was in for a big public relations disaster and decided that giving the Pollards refuge would only aggravate it. It has also been said that turning them away was the result of a simple mix-up. Elliot Goldenberg in The Hunting Horse quotes an unnamed source as saying that Pollard would have been taken into the embassy and flown to Israel if Israel's ambassador to the United States, Meir Rosenne, had been present. Unfortunately for the spy, Rosenne was in Paris. Elyakim Rubinstein was in charge that day and he had not been briefed about plans to aid Pollard. After the incident, Rubinstein became Israel's attorney general. He has also become a vocal supporter of clemency for Pollard.

Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir (AP)
Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir (AP)

When Pollard was arrested, the Israeli government immediately denied that he was their agent. Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir both claimed complete ignorance of Israel's mole in America. A committee was formed to ferret out the truth of the matter. But Blitzer is probably correct that this was not so much the investigating body it was officially supposed to be as a "damage control" mechanism. Predictably, it concluded that Pollard's spying was a "rogue operation" unbeknownst to the highest authorities in Israel.

During his time in jail awaiting trial, Pollard was hopeful that Israel would intercede on his behalf. Instead, Israel cooperated with the U.S. government in its efforts to nail him. They agreed to turn over all the documents that Pollard had given them.

Jonathan Pollard, 1986 (AP)
Jonathan Pollard, 1986
(AP)

When it became obvious that the Israelis were not going to get Pollard out of his predicament, he decided to spill the details of the operations in which he had been involved to U.S. authorities. However, he always insisted that he was not committing espionage against America but for its ally Israel.

The charges against him were very serious and carried a possible sentence of life. Anne Henderson-Pollard was charged with two counts, one of "conspiring to receive embezzled government property" and another of "unauthorized possession of national defense information." Each charge carried a possible maximum of five years behind bars. She was especially terrified of continued incarceration because her time in jail had been horrendous. By the time of the trial, the 25-year-old had lost 50 pounds and her hair had gone gray. Henderson-Pollard claimed that she had been "locked in a tiny, windowless, roach and rat-infested cell for 23 1/2 to 24 hours a day. I was deliberately denied essential medical treatment and prescriptions for my numerous health problems, and almost died as a result of this."

Joseph DiGenova (AP)
Joseph DiGenova (AP)

Joseph DiGenova, a volatile and ambitious man with bushy eyebrows and an intense stare, headed the government's prosecutorial team.

Richard Hibey, a respected attorney, defended Jonathan Pollard. Later, both Jonathan Pollard and his father would express grave doubts about whether or not the lawyer truly had his client's best interests at heart.

Pollard's attorneys cut a deal with the prosecution. Their client would plead guilty if the prosecutors would not ask for the maximum sentence. The deal was accepted.

The spy pled guilty. Jay Pollard sat in the courtroom, visibly trembling, as he made the plea.

"Do you know of any reason why I shouldn't accept your plea?" Judge Aubrey Robinson asked.

"No, sir, I don't," Pollard replied in a sickly-sounding voice.

The judge tried to impress the gravity of the situation upon the spy and make certain he knew that the deal carried no guarantee. "You realize I could still impose life imprisonment?" Robinson continued.

"Yes," Jay said.

Shortly thereafter, in the same court session, Anne Henderson-Pollard, pitifully thin, hunched over in apparent pain, and wearing a dress of funereal black, pled guilty to a single count of "conspiring to receive and possessing stolen documents."

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