Skip To Content

Supporters of Jonathan Pollard, convicted spy, hope Trump will commute his sentence

Supporters and friends of Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew who served Israel as a spy, are hoping that before he leaves office, President Donald Trump will enable Pollard to emigrate to the Jewish state by commuting his sentence or pardoning him.

Pollard pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage in connection with providing Israeli contacts with hundreds of classified documents he had obtained as a civilian intelligence specialist for the U.S. Navy.

After serving 30 years in prison, he began 15 years of parole, whose conditions stipulate that he not leave the country. He also has a curfew and the government monitors his computer use.

However, Pollard’s parole comes up for review by the U.S. Department of Justice every five years, and his five-year anniversary is on Nov. 21, said David Schoen, a defense attorney not connected to the Pollard case who practices nationwide and has worked on cases involving government security clearance.

Eliot Lauer, Pollard’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

Pollard and his wife are eager to learn the government’s plans, especially because he longs to move to Israel and has already become an Israeli citizen, but they haven’t an inkling of what the Justice Department might do, said a friend of the family who talked with them Thursday morning but spoke on condition of anonymity.

If the Justice Department makes no changes to his parole arrangements, Pollard could appeal to Trump for a commutation of his sentence, or a pardon. He could also appeal to the department itself, but going to Trump is the stronger strategy, Schoen said.

Pollard’s allies are already trying to involve Trump, beloved by many Jews for moves he’s made related to Israel, such as moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

In 2017, Trump commuted the 27-year sentence of another high-profile Jewish prisoner, Sholom Rubashkin, the former CEO of the largest kosher meat-processing plant.

“I think there is a good chance – based on his track record – that Trump may do something,” said Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel. “There is no question that he has been the best president for Israel of any president in history.”

Weiss asked deceased Sen. John McCain, a Republican of Arizona, to help Pollard leave prison on parole after he had served 30 years of his life prison sentence. Now he’s tapping his contacts again on Pollard’s behalf.

Jewish supporters of both Rubashkin and Pollard claimed that their sentences were excessive. Farley called Pollard’s sentence a “miscarriage of justice.”

Just before he was sentenced, Pollard tried to cast himself as a kind of Jewish patriot, the Forward reported, trying to help Israel by compensating for the American intelligence community’s failings.

Others, including the Forward, have argued against leniency for Pollard.

“Jonathan Pollard is not a Jewish martyr,” wrote New Republic editor Martin Peretz.“He is a convicted espionage agent who spied on his country for both Israel and Pakistan (!) — a spy, moreover, who got paid for his work. His professional career, then, reeks of infamy and is suffused with depravity.”


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.