Friday, August 10, 2012

Whose Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Rabbi Max Felshin

The rabbi lived in the G building, 10 Monroe Street. Turns out that Judith Coplon was really guilty.
Judith Coplon Socolov (May 17, 1921 – February 26, 2011) was one of the first major figures tried in the United States for spying for the former Soviet Union; problems in her trials in 1949–50 had a profound influence on espionage prosecutions during the McCarthy era. Coplon obtained a job in the Department of Justice shortly after she graduated from Barnard College, cum laude in 1943. She transferred to the Foreign Agents Registration section in 1944, where she had access to counter-intelligence information, and was allegedly recruited as a spy by the NKGB at the end of 1944. She first came to the attention of the FBI as a result of a Venona message in late 1948. Coplon was known in both Soviet intelligence and the Venona files as "SIMA". She was the first person tried as a result of the Venona project—although, for reasons of security, the Venona information was not revealed at her trial. FBI Special Agent Robert Lamphere testified at her trial that suspicion had fallen on Coplon because of information from a reliable "confidential informant". An extensive counter-intelligence operation planted a secret document for her to pass to the Soviets. FBI agents detained Coplon in March, 1949 as she met with Valentin Gubitchev, a KGB official employed by the United Nations, while carrying what she believed were secret U.S. government documents in her purse. Coplon was convicted in two separate trials, one for espionage in 1949, and another for conspiracy along with Gubitchev in 1950; both convictions were later overturned in 1950 and 1951, respectively in appeal. The appellant judge in New York concluded that, while the evidence showed that she was guilty, FBI agents had lied under oath about the bugging. Moreover, he wrote, the failure to get a warrant was not justified. He 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 possible. For political and evidentiary reasons it never took place. Due to these legal irregularities, she was never retried and the government ultimately dropped the case in 1967.

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