Jerry Lee, a former CIA officer who resigned from the agency and then came back, was sentenced to 19 years in prison on Friday.
Prosecutors said he conspired to communicate, deliver and transmit national defense information to China. Lee, who plead guilty in May, was accused from 2010-2013 of delivering files to China, after two Chinese intelligence officers said they would give him a $100,000 gift and that they’d take care of him for life.
In total, the prosecution said he was offered more than $800,000 by the Chinese government.
They went into detail about what Lee exactly had on him and what they suspect he gave to the Chinese.
David Burns a top Justice Department official said that the Lee case represents a "high watermark" of Chinese espionage cases, as well as the third case in 2019 that DOJ has prosecuted related to Chinese spying.
During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution said Lee had a notebook with "eight clandestine human sources," and names of people he handled personally as a case agent in the CIA. The defense claimed that the government "would know" if those agents were harmed. They said that simply having names of people in a notebook doesn’t denote intent. The prosecution also presented a list of "21 tasks" that Lee had from the government which the defense said he never admitted to doing.
The DOJ also said the notebook contained "classified CIA tradecraft," including location of CIA covert facilities that could compromise employees and given the amount of money, prosecutors said he must've been giving the Chinese "top drawer" information.
The prosecution also said that it is "irrelevant" that there was harm -- as the act had already happened.
The defense also contended that there was no proof all of the money was given to Lee by the Chinese, and instead said he had other businesses.
"The government is describing its worst possible nightmare," a defense attorney for Lee said. But that scenario, was not the case they argue.
Prosecutors said that Lee had set up a business in which he claimed to have tobacco companies, the British Consulate and Gucci as his clients.
When confronted with the evidence in one interview with the FBI about the fact that the consulting company he set up could be a front he responded, "I hear you, but I'm not going to say anything."
In one interesting exchange, defense attorney Nina Ginsburg said that Lee "served his country."
Judge T.S. Ellis, who also presided over former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort's trial, quipped back that the service is erased by "betraying your government."
U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger said that Lee joins the list of "infamous traders" who they’ve prosecuted in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA).
A 2012 hotel room search found that Lee had a USB drive with sensitive files on it, after he first denied its existence.
The government said Lee continuously lied to them when confronted by both the CIA and FBI with the information, until finally coming clean in January 2018.
Lee, in his speech to the court, apologized for his actions.
"I can only say I’m sorry," Lee said. Adding that he "takes responsibility" for his actions and that he "let his country down."
Prosecutors wanted to be the ones who took care of him for life, as they asked for a hefty sentence.
"Lee sold out the U.S.," Terwilliger said. "What’s worse is he employed all of his training to lie and obstruct."