98-year-old Miriam Moskowitz, convicted in connection to the notorious 1950s Rosenberg espionage case, has filed a petition asking a federal judge to vacate her conviction because it was allegedly influenced by false testimony, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Husband and wife Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty of conspiring to commit espionage by passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union in 1951 and executed by electric chair in 1953. But others were involved in a larger scandal. Moskowitz and her lover Abraham Brothman were convicted in 1950 of conspiring to obstruct justice for allegedly convincing Harry Gold, a courier for the Soviet secret agency KGB, to lie to a federal grand jury about his spy connections.
Moskowitz, briefly a member of the Communist Party, served a two-year prison sentence and paid a $US10,000 fine in 1950, equivalent to $US100,000 today.
Gold’s confessions to the FBI eventually also implicated the Rosenbergs.
Moskowitz’s petition argues that documents recently unsealed reveal that Gold lied during trial when he testified against Moskowitz, contradicting prior statements he had made to the FBI months prior. Moskowitz is now arguing the jury wouldn’t have believed Gold’s later testimony if they had known about his earlier statements, which were also unavailable to the defence at the time.
The petition aims to alleviate some of the economic and social adversity Moskowitz says she has faced in the decades following her conviction. She claims the shame of her conviction prevented her from marrying, having children, and socializing among friends and the community. Harassment from FBI agents at her workplace following her release from prison cost her her job, Moskowitz also claims.
“By this petition, the Court has the opportunity to correct a miscarriage of justice from the McCarthy era, of which Ms. Moskowitz is perhaps the last living victim,” the petition concluded.
Moskowitz’s trial occurred only a few months before the prosecution of the Rosenbergs, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Cohn later called the Moskowitz case a “dry-run of the upcoming Rosenberg trial.”
The Rosenberg trial attracted widespread attention and divisions in public opinion. Many on the left of the political spectrum believed the Rosenbergs were innocent victims of the anti-Communist fervor sweeping the country in some of the darkest days of the Cold War, according to the Federal Judicial Center. But at the same time, many Americans supported the executions amid their hatred of communism and the belief that the Rosenbergs deserved their sentence for placing the country at risk of nuclear devastation.
Moskowitz has claimed anti-Soviet feelings and rhetoric influenced the outcome of her trial, similar to the feelings that divided public opinion of the Rosenbergs.
“[T]he 1950 jury was undeniably biased against Ms. Moskowitz by the entirely unsupported statements of the judge and prosecutors linking her with ‘atomic espionage,’ treason, ‘subversive activities,’ and the Soviet Union, none of which were remotely relevant to the indictment,” the petition said.
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