Espionage suspect reportedly seeks leniency for wife

April 07, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- With the CIA and FBI determined to learn whether Aldrich H. Ames had confederates inside the intelligence agency, the accused man is showing his first willingness to cooperate with investigators -- but only if they recommend leniency for his wife, the Los Angeles Times learned yesterday.

But Mr. Ames has virtually no chance of negotiating leniency for himself, considering the damage investigators believe the 31-year CIA veteran caused to U.S. intelligence interests and his possible complicity in the deaths of U.S. intelligence operatives in Russia.

Mr. Ames, 52, and his Colombian-born wife, Maria del Rosario Casas Ames, 41, were arrested on espionage conspiracy charges Feb. 21. The deadline for a grand jury indictment, typically 30 days after an arrest, was extended an additional 30 days to give defense attorneys time to examine the voluminous documents recovered by the FBI in searches of Mr. Ames' home and CIA office.

Mr. Ames was allegedly paid at least $2.5 million by the Soviet Union and later the Russians to spy for them since 1985.

Prosecutors are intent on putting Mr. Ames in prison for life, according to sources close to the case. But the prospect of a deal for Mrs. Ames is a more complicated proposition. She has been suffering emotional distress since her incarceration, a factor said to be adding to Mr. Ames' desire to strike a deal for her. Sources said she is being seen by a Washington psychologist, whose employment was approved Monday by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.

Psychologist A. John Kalil acknowledged that he has been assigned to assess Mrs. Ames' condition. Asked whether her distress was related to her 5-year-old son, Paul, who was sent to Colombia to stay with his maternal grandmother, Mr. Kalil said: "In a sense, it is."

Government officials must weigh whether they can justify allowing Mrs. Ames to go free after some period of imprisonment if, in return, they obtain Mr. Ames' first-hand insight into who else in the CIA -- if anyone -- may have helped him carry out the alleged espionage and the degree to which it has compromised some still-existing intelligence operations overseas.

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