US prosecutors who introduced the Russian spy scheme in the case of a couple accused of living for decades in Hawaii with stolen identities from dead babies now say they don’t want jurors to hear about photos showing them in foreign uniforms.
A US judge granted the request last week, ruling that the uniforms are not relevant to the upcoming trial on charges related to identity theft and passport fraud. Defense attorneys have said all along that those uniforms were once worn for fun.
When the former US defense contractor and his wife were arrested last year, prosecutors suggested the case was more than just identity theft.
According to prosecutors, Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison are the real names of the couple who have been fraudulently living for decades under the stolen identities of Bobby Fort and Julie Montague. Prosecutors say Primrose spent more than 20 years in the Coast Guard as Bobby Fort, where he earned a secret-level security clearance. After retiring in 2016, he used the secret authorization for his defense work, prosecutors said.
There is no indication in court documents why the couple in 1987 assumed the identities of the deceased children, who would have been more than a decade their junior.
A search of the couple’s home in Kapolei, a Honolulu suburb, turned up Polaroids of them wearing jackets that appear to be authentic KGB uniforms, an invisible ink kit, documents with coded language and maps showing military bases, the officials said. prosecutors.
They have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, false statement in a passport application and aggravated identity theft. The trial is scheduled for next month but could be delayed because a new lawyer was appointed for Primrose last week.
Prosecutors filed a motion last month “to preclude examination of or testimony about defendants who wear or are photographed in foreign military uniforms.” Prosecutors said they were irrelevant to the charges, and US District Judge Leslie Kobayashi agreed.
Defense lawyers for the couple have said they took a photo of themselves in the same jacket years ago as a joke.
In an email from prosecutors to defense attorneys, Assistant US Attorney Tom Muehleck wrote that a witness said the photos were taken sometime in the 1990s and that US agents received the “alleged uniform.”
Defense attorneys said that discredits the espionage theory.
In a subsequent email from prosecutors to defense attorneys about the seized letters that referred to the couple using other aliases, Muehleck wrote, “The United States retracts that argument,” adding that they later learned those were just nicknames “and some of them were the product of inside jokes regarding Primrose and Morrison.”
Alexander Silvert, a retired federal defender from the District of Hawaii who is not involved in the case, said it appears prosecutors overreacted to the photos.
Looking further, “they probably… realized they overreacted and these are not Russian spies,” he said. “These are people who stole other people’s identities, which, unfortunately, is not uncommon these days.”
But there is also another wild possibility, he said.
“The savage conspiracy theorists would say that maybe they are actually Russian spies, but the government doesn’t want anyone to know,” Silvert said.
In response to an Associated Press email asking what happened to the spying speculation, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Enoki, a spokesman for the office, said: “We have nothing more to add to the public filings or comments already made.”
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on Morrison’s request to reconsider a previous arrest ruling. A hearing had not yet been scheduled for Primrose’s similar request.
“I said from the beginning that this is not a case of Russian espionage,” Silvert said. “It’s just a vanilla id theft that had a wrinkle in it.”