WASHINGTON — A confessed spy for Cuba was sentenced to life in prison and his wife to 81 months Friday after telling a judge that their "overriding objective" for 30 years of passing secrets to Cuba "was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution."
A stern U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton lopped off just 9 months of the maximum sentence Gwendolyn Myers could have faced under a plea agreement and told Walter Kendall Myers he deserved life in prison for betraying his country.
"If you believed in the revolution, you should have defected," Walton said, adding that he saw "no sense of remorse" from Myers, who addressed the court for the first time, telling Walton why the couple spied for Cuba and how they saw a "silver lining" in prison -- they've stopped smoking and are tutoring inmates.
Walter Myers -- a former State Department employee with top-secret clearance -- had agreed to the life sentence without parole and to cooperate with the federal government in a deal that offered his wife a much lighter sentence than the 20 years she might have faced at trial.
Prosecutors had sought up to 90 months for Gwendolyn Myers, 72, portraying her as "more than just the wife of a spy" -- an active participant with a code name supplied by the Cuban intelligence agency.
"She and Kendall Myers were a team, a spy team," said Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Harvey.
Walter Myers told Walton he and his wife were motivated not by "anger at the United States or a feeling of anti-Americanism," but in support of the Cuban revolution.
"Our overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution and forestall conflict between the two countries," Myers said. Both he and his wife, he said, "share the same love and solidarity with the Cuban people.
"We share the ideals and dreams of the Cuban revolution," he said. "We are equally committed to helping the struggling people of the world."
But Walton said he was "perplexed" at how Myers could say he was helping the Cuban people by giving "highly classified" material to the Cuban government.
"The Cuban people felt threatened by the U.S. and they have good reason," Myers replied, charging that the U.S. has "pursued regime change," invaded and "trained persons to carry out hostile acts. "From a Cuban perspective there is a great deal to fear from the U.S.," Myers said, adding that he hoped to "alleviate some of those fears," by "assessing the nature of the threat to Cuba."
But prosecutors portrayed Myers as a son of privilege -- he is a great grandson of Alexander Graham Bell -- who toyed with revolution as a way of spicing up his life.
Harvey noted that Myers -- after being contacted last year by an FBI agent posing as a Cuban agent -- cajoled Gwendolyn Myers into coming out of retirement to spy once more.
"He said, 'I was actually thinking it would be fun to get back into it,' " Harvey said. "That's what he said what, fun. He sold out the United States because he thought it would be thrilling and he should pay the price for his treachery."