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    Espionage suspect's fate rests with jury

    Deliberations begin today. Jurors must decide whether George Trofimoff's claim, that he lied about spying to make money, is true.

    By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 26, 2001


    TAMPA -- Some jurors held back smiles when George Trofimoff insisted it was coincidence that, shown pictures of KGB agents, he correctly guessed their first names.

    Others furrowed their brows when prosecutors confronted him with a June 1990 American Express bill -- just days after he told them that he did not own credit cards until after he arrived in the United States in 1995.

    And they chuckled when he said it was also coincidence that the most devastating testimony against him during the three-week trial happened to match his fabricated version of events. These jurors will begin deliberations today in the case of Trofimoff, 74, a retired Army Reserve colonel accused of spying for the Soviets during the Cold War. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

    They will decide whether he told them the truth -- that he concocted an intricate tale of spying so that he could make some money -- or if he truly did provide thousands of secret U.S. military documents to the Soviets for 25 years.

    The jury will mull over weeks of testimony from spies, secret agents and war veterans -- and an inmate who talked Monday about a jail-house confession.

    They also will consider the work of prosecutors, who called Trofimoff's defense "the stupidest thing you ever heard."

    The son of Russian emigres told the jury repeatedly during cross-examinations by prosecutors that he lied to an undercover FBI agent during six hours of secretly recorded conversations on Feb. 24, 1999.

    The FBI agent, Dimitry Droujinski, had posed as a KGB agent, needing information from Trofimoff because a KGB analyst had defected, taking with him documents that could incriminate Trofimoff.

    During the trial, Trofimoff said he thought that Droujinski was actually a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church who wanted to give him money. He said he played along, laying on a detailed story about photographing secret documents, meeting with KGB agents and collecting money for his services.

    During the 1999 meeting, Droujinski showed Trofimoff a series of photographs. Trofimoff claimed to recognize five of the men -- all actual KGB agents.

    One of the men, Oleg Kalugin, appeared as a witness during the trial. The former KGB general called Trofimoff one of the spy agency's most valuable operatives and detailed a face-to-face meeting between the men along a river in Bad Ischl, a resort town in Austria.

    That account matched the story Trofimoff told Droujinski, but Trofimoff on Monday called it a "coincidence."

    "You're making a bunch of deductions, that's what you're doing," Trofimoff told prosecutor Walter Furr. "It's part of my fantasy. If (Droujinski) said, "Did you give us the Brooklyn Bridge,' I would've told him, "Yes.' "

    He added: "This Kalugin seemed to be the knowledge of everything, didn't he?"

    Furr then produced records of purchases on American Express and Diner's Club cards dating back from 1989 to show the jury that Trofimoff owned credit cards while living in Germany.

    On Friday, Trofimoff had told jurors that his "fantasy" about spying was fueled by a desperate need for money, because when he and his wife moved to the United States from Germany, they became first-time credit card holders and fell deep into debt.

    "Everybody else is lying but him," Furr said during closing arguments. "The defense has a fundamental problem. The problem is the defendant. He's a stone liar."

    Furr said Trofimoff never hung up the telephone when Droujinski first contacted him because Trofimoff thought that Droujinski really was from the KGB.

    "These are the people who for 25 years powdered his bottom whenever he had a problem," Furr said.

    Trofimoff's attorney, Danny Hernandez, said prosecutors never presented any evidence that Trofimoff spied. He criticized the FBI's tactics and the testimony of Kalugin.

    Hernandez also questioned the testimony of Brian Anthony Bebley, a five-time convict serving a 26-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. Bebley, who shared a cell with Trofimoff for three months, told the jury that Trofimoff admitted to providing documents to "an organization with a three-letter word."

    Hernandez accused Bebley of lying in hopes of getting a reduced sentence.

    "This man, George Trofimoff, is not guilty," Hernandez said. "And I ask that you send him home to his wife."

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