FBI agents arrested Judith Coplon (1921 – 2011) on March 4, 1949 in Manhattan as she met with Valentin Gubitchev, a NKVD official employed at the United Nations, while carrying what she believed to have been secret U.S. government documents in her purse. Hoover's G-Men FBI were certain that Coplon, a secretary at the Federal Justice Department, was colluding with the Soviet agents in Washington but to prove their case conclusively would compromise an ongoing counter-espionage project called the "Venona Project".Coplon was convicted in two separate trials, one for espionage that began on April 25, 1949, and another for conspiracy along with Gubitchev in 1950; both convictions were later overturned in 1950 and 1951, respectively on appeal.
The appellate court, sitting in New York, concluded that, while the evidence showed that she was guilty, FBI agents had lied under oath about the bugging. Moreover, the opinion said, the failure to get a warrant was not justified. The court overturned the verdict, but the indictment was not dismissed. In the appeal of the Washington trial, the verdict was upheld, but because of the possible bugging, a new trial became impossible. For political and evidentiary reasons it never took place.
Due the FBI's wish to maintain secrecy, as well as being stymied by a series of legal irregularities, she was never retried and the government ultimately dropped the case in 1967. The proof of Judith Coplon's sedition became clear to one and all years later with the decoding of the Venona cables.
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