WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A retired U.S. State Department official got life in prison on Friday and his wife a sentence of 6-3/4 years for spying for Havana for three decades because they shared the Cuban revolution’s ideals.
Walter Kendall Myers, 73, who had access to State Department classified information, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 72, who worked at a bank, were sentenced under a plea deal in which they admitted spying for the Communist-led government.
The husband told the judge the couple acted not for money or because they were anti-American, but because of their beliefs.
“Our overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution,” he said. “We share the ideals and dreams of the Cuban revolution.”
Myers said U.S.-Cuban relations had long been marked by hostility and misunderstanding and he sought to alleviate the fears of the Cuban people who felt threatened. President Barack Obama has attempted to improve ties with Cuba.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said the couple had betrayed their country, showed no remorse and even seemed proud of what they had done.
“If you believed in the revolution,” he told the couple as they stood before him in the packed courtroom, “you should have defected.”
The sentencing occurred a week after the Obama administration swapped 10 Russian agents who had been living undercover in the United States for four individuals who had been imprisoned in Russia for contacts with Western intelligence agencies.
This week, an Iranian nuclear scientist who said he was abducted by U.S. agents and brought to the United States went home. U.S. officials said the scientist had provided useful information and was in the country voluntarily.
The couple’s case was unrelated to that of five convicted Cubans who spied on the exile community in Miami.
Kendall Myers, known as Agent 202, and his wife, known as Agent 123, were recruited in the late 1970s while he worked for the State Department.
He later rose to senior analyst on European intelligence with “top secret” clearance and access to scores of classified documents, which he passed to the Cuban government.
FBI agents arrested the couple, both Washington, D.C., residents, more than a year ago. They have been in jail since.
U.S. prosecutor Michael Harvey said at the hearing that the couple received medals from Cuba and flew there in 1995 for a private meeting with the country’s leader, Fidel Castro.
“He is a traitor,” Harvey said of Myers. “He betrayed his State Department colleagues and our nation.”
The judge agreed with the prosecutor’s request a money judgement be entered against Myers for $1.7 million (1.1 million pounds), which represents the amount of salary he received as a State Department employee.
Myers, who left the State Department in 2007, is telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s great-grandson.
Defence lawyers said the wife should get a more lenient sentence partly because of her poor health. She has suffered a heart attack and several minor strokes.
Under the deal, she could have received as much as 7-1/2 years in prison while her lawyers sought a six-year term. The judge ordered her placed on three years of probation after she serves her prison term.
Editing by Jerry Norton