Friday, August 28, 2009

Ex-CIA Spy's Son Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy Charges

The Miami Herald is reporting that the son of an ex-CIA spy has agreed to testify against his father as part of a plea agreement that may prevent the son serving any prison time for taking money from Russian agents. Nathaniel Nicholson pleaded guilty this week to engaging in a conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Jim Nicholson was the highest-ranking CIA official ever convicted of espionage when he pleaded guilty in 1997 to a conspiracy charge that sent him to prison for more than 23 years. He had been accused of selling information to the Russians about the CIA agents he trained and passing along other secrets.

Both Nicholsons were indicted in January on new charges of conspiracy, money laundering and acting as an agent of a foreign government. Jim Nicholson was accused of sending his son back to his Russian handlers from 2006 to 2008 to squeeze more money out of them.

Under the plea agreement, the 25-year-old Nicholson admitted taking money from the Russians and promised to testify, if required, against his father in the new case. In return, federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence that could result only in probation.

During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Anna Brown, Nathaniel Nicholson admitted traveling to San Francisco, Mexico City, Lima, Peru and Nicosia, Cyprus, to meet with agents of the Russian Federation on behalf of his father.

The younger Nicholson took about $45,000 in payments from the Russian agents, who wanted to determine how much U.S. agencies had learned about their operations during the investigation of the elder Nicholson. He said he gave most of the money to family members, at his father's direction.

Acting U.S. Attorney Kent Robinson said the guilty plea showed the younger Nicholson's "willingness to accept responsibility for his actions."

Nate Nicholson was just 12 years old when his father was sentenced in June 1997, but had visited him regularly at the federal prison in Sheridan, a small town in the farmland southwest of Portland.

Sentencing was set for January 25 for the younger Nicholson. A trial for his father, an Oregon native, is not expected until at least May.

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