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Russian 'Spies' Cool In Courtroom

Robert Baum (left), an attorney for accused Russian spy Anna Chapman, talks to reporters in front of the New York Federal Court building after all 10 suspects pleaded guilty to lesser charges on July 8.
The arraignment of the 10 Russian spy suspects in the New York federal court on June 8 went as swiftly as predicted by the media, signaling a satisfactory outcome for Moscow and Washington.

The seemingly scripted proceedings, presided over by Judge Kimba Wood, left an eerie feeling of a well-rehearsed performance. All defendants quickly admitted their guilt and answered all questions with seeming self-assurance.

Asked by Judge Wood whether they had been induced in any way by promises from the Russian government to plead guilty, nine of the 10 defendants said no, it was their own decision. Only the lawyer for the Peruvian-born Vicky Pelaez said that his client was in fact promised a number of perks to relocate to Russia, including free housing in Moscow, a $2,000 monthly stipend for life, visas for her children, and Russian citizenship. If she wanted to relocate back to Peru, he said, Moscow was willing to accommodate her wish as well. Pelaez, it was reported, was unwilling to move to Russia and Moscow was aggressively pursuing ways to convince her to do so and quickly close an embarrassing chapter in Russia-U.S. relations.

Among the conditions for the acceptance of the plea deal and speedy deportation of the "spies" was a clause on story and publishing revenues. All proceeds from any future book, movie, story, or other deals resulting from the spy saga of any of the defendants must be promptly transferred to U.S. federal coffers. In these difficult financial times, big Hollywood studios interested in developing a script based on any of these spy stories might at least get themselves a tax credit if those fees are be paid to the U.S. Treasury.

-- Nikola Krastev

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