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Defendants in China Spy Case Plead Not Guilty - 2003-05-13


In Los Angeles, an accused Chinese spy and a retired government agent who was allegedly her lover have pleaded not guilty to national security violations. Authorities say the woman was a double agent for China.

The wealthy Chinese-American woman, Katrina Leung, is charged with copying and possessing national defense documents, which police say she took from the briefcase of her former lover, a retired counter-intelligence agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The former agent, James J. Smith, was charged with fraud for filing false reports that suggested Ms. Leung was reliable, and with gross negligence for allowing her access to classified material.

Ms. Leung has been held without bail since her arrest April 9. Mr. Smith is free on bail.

She faces 50 years in prison if convicted of all charges. He faces 40 years. Neither was charged with the more serious crime of espionage.

Ms. Leung's husband, Kam, says his wife is a scapegoat to distract attention from FBI misconduct.

"Like all our friends and supporters and family, we all know that she's been working hard as a dedicated American citizen," he said. "All of us know how high her ideals are, and she had always worked under the direction of the government.

Mr. Smith's lawyer says his client's faith in the woman was justified because of her long track record in providing information to the FBI.

Ms. Leung is a well known figure in the Los Angeles Chinese community, and was known to be well connected with influential figures in China.

Court documents say Mr. Smith recruited Ms. Leung in 1982 to provide intelligence on China, and that the two began a sexual relationship that year. Over a 20-year period, the FBI has paid her $1.7 million.

The two are being tried separately, and both trials are set for July 1.