SPY SUSPECT reaches deal with government - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

SPY SUSPECT reaches deal with government

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen will plead guilty this week to charges he spied for Russia and will avoid the death penalty, his attorney said Tuesday.

``This is an appropriate resolution which we believe is beneficial to the government and to Mr. Hanssen and his family,'' defense attorney Preston Burton said.

Two government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the deal spares Hanssen from the death penalty.

The accused spy will be required to sit for interviews with the FBI, CIA and other intelligence officials so they can determine the extent of his activities, the officials said.

One of the officials said the deal would allow Hanssen's wife, Bonnie, and six children to receive benefits under his government pension.

Hanssen is only the third FBI agent to be accused of espionage.

He pleaded not guilty May 31 to charges of spying for Moscow, and plans were set for an Oct. 29 trial. The federal indictment, issued May 16, accuses Hanssen of 21 counts of espionage.

Burton said he could not release other details of the deal, saying it was sealed.

``I don't think it's appropriate to discuss the specifics and how we got here,'' Burton said. ``We'll address the matter in court and outside afterward.''

A plea hearing was set for 9 a.m. Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., before Judge Claude Hilton.

A Justice Department spokeswoman would not comment.

Attorneys for the former FBI agent have been negotiating for weeks on a deal that would allow him to reveal secrets he sold to Moscow, in exchange for the Justice Department agreeing to a life term.

Hanssen could have faced the death penalty because the government said his spying led to the death of two double agents.

The government alleged that Hanssen passed U.S. secrets to Moscow for 15 years in exchange for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. The FBI said it obtained original Russian documents that detailed Hanssen's alleged activities, including letters he allegedly wrote to his Russian handlers and secret codes he allegedly used to signal when and where he would drop documents. The FBI has not disclosed the source of the documents.

Hanssen has been detained at an undisclosed location since his arrest Feb. 18 at a Virginia park as he allegedly delivered a package for pickup by his Russian handlers.

Going to trial would have raised the prospect of prosecutors having to reveal in open court sensitive information about U.S. counterintelligence activities. For instance, Hanssen allegedly disclosed how the United States was intercepting Soviet satellite transmissions and the means by which the United States would retaliate against a nuclear attack.
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