Lawyer: Russian diplomat told daughter, NY spy suspect, to see police about fake passport

By Larry Neumeister, AP
Friday, July 2, 2010

Lawyer: NY spy suspect’s dad told her to see cops

NEW YORK — A lawyer for a Russian diplomat’s daughter accused of being a spy said Friday that her father told her to go to police with a fake passport an undercover FBI agent had given to her, leading to her arrest and solitary confinement.

Attorney Robert Baum said he may use that information to appeal a magistrate judge’s decision to deny bail for his client, Anna Chapman, a striking redhead who was branded a femme fatale in media reports and whose photos were splashed across tabloids’ front pages.

Baum said Chapman, 28, told him she reached out to her father, Vasily Kushchenko, a day after an FBI agent posing as a Russian consulate employee asked her to deliver a fraudulent passport to another woman working as a spy.

“She spoke to her father, and her father said, ‘Go turn the passport in,’” Baum said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Her father said, ‘You’ve got this passport. It’s forged. Go turn it into the police,’ and that’s exactly what she did.”

Chapman was the first of 10 spy suspects arrested over the weekend in the United States to be denied bail. She is charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, which carries a potential penalty of five years in prison.

At a bail hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz said only that investigators on June 27 intercepted phone calls in which Chapman was “talking to a man who is advising her, who is telling her essentially … to make up a story, to say that she’s being intimidated, that this might be some other criminal activity, and who advises her to get out of the country and to go to the police.”

Baum said he believed the phone calls cited by prosecutors were conversations between Chapman and her father, whom Baum described as a low-level embassy employee whose family was middle class.

Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Manhattan, declined to comment on Baum’s comments.

Baum discounted published reports Friday quoting Chapman’s ex-husband as saying her father is a spy.

“I won’t go into the circumstances of divorce, but he may be somewhat bitter about it,” Baum said.

Baum said he has spent several hours with his client over two nights this week, finding her “very frightened.”

He said she was kept isolated in a cell in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He said she is allowed one hour a day of exercise, the only time she is allowed to be with another inmate.

Otherwise, she is given no access to phones, television or newspapers, Baum said.

“I can’t tell you why, whether it’s because of the nature of the charges or whether she’s in some type of protective custody,” he said. “In some respects, it’s a good thing that she’s alone because she’s frightened about being with other inmates.”

Baum said another defendant, Cynthia Murphy, also is being held in isolation.

Prison spokesman James Davis said he couldn’t comment on any inmate’s housing out of security concerns.

Baum said he showed his client some of the tabloid newspaper stories that feature photographs from her Facebook page, showing the smiling Russian enjoying Manhattan’s nightlife scene, posing in front of the Statue of Liberty and mixing with businessmen at a conference.

“She was embarrassed by some of the photos that were obviously taken from her Facebook pages,” the lawyer said. “The truth is she probably no different than your typical single 28-year-old woman in New York City. She runs a successful business, goes out at night. She dates men, enjoys a social life.”

Baum has argued for a $250,000 bail and said he was confident she could post $25,000 in cash.

“She feels that if bail were granted there is no way in the world she would ever flee the area,” he said. “In fact, she’s concerned she may get deported. She’d like to live here.”

“She’s taking the charges very seriously,” he added. “The only time I saw less than a serious outlook was when she read some of the things being said about her.”

He cited descriptions in the press of her as a “party girl.”

“I wouldn’t say she laughed,” Baum said. “She smiled and rolled her eyes.”

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