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Hanssen Enters Not Guilty Plea at Arraignment

Aired May 31, 2001 - 09:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to tell you now that there's a press conference following the beginning of the Hanssen hearing. And it looks like Plato Cacheris, the attorney for Mr. Hanssen, is speaking now.

Let's listen in.

PLATO CACHERIS, HANSSEN'S ATTORNEY: In due course, we will be filing motions -- some under seal as required by the CIPA act, some in open court -- attacking this indictment and this case. If anything survives, we'll be back here on the 29th of October for a trial.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Plato, what do you expect to be the basis of your primary motions?

CACHERIS: Gary (ph), if I told you, you'd tell the...

(AUDIO GAP)

QUESTION: Death penalty here?

CACHERIS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Will the government still be trying...

CACHERIS: That...

(AUDIO GAP)

QUESTION: Is there any chance...

QUESTION: Is it still open for a plea agreement?

QUESTION: Is there any chance of a plea before October 29? Do you see any chance of that still?

CACHERIS: I won't discuss a plea right now, Eric (ph).

QUESTION: Plato, is a death penalty constitutional in this case?

CACHERIS: Ah...

(AUDIO GAP)

CACHERIS: ... comment.

QUESTION: Are you going to insist the government produce Russians...

QUESTION: Will you challenge the constitutionality?

CACHERIS: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Are you going to insist the government produce Russians to establish continuity of evidence and document evidence of -- is apparently in the hands of the prosecutors?

CACHERIS: Jim, we look forward to any Russians that want to come over here and testify in this case.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Why no family here today?

CACHERIS: What's that?

QUESTION: Why no family here today at this hearing (ph)?

CACHERIS: They're here in spirit.

FRAZIER: Comments there of Plato Cacheris who is the attorney for accused spy Robert Hanssen. He's pleading not guilty at his arraignment today. These, of course, very serious charges of espionage over a period of 15 years where Hanssen is accused of selling secrets, first to the soviets, then later to the Russians.

Our Kelli Arena was inside the courtroom during that arraignment -- short as it was. I don't think we've got Kelli outside yet because this was all so quick. But you heard Plato Cacheris say that barring any kind of unforeseen circumstances, they do go to -- plan to go to trial on the 29th of October. He also said that -- he made no comment about the fact that some of these charges could bring the death penalty for Mr. Hanssen.

KAGAN: Right. Apparently they've been trying to work out some kind of plea bargain and those talks have broken down.

Our Kelli Arena was inside the courtroom as this situation was taking place. Let's go ahead and check in with her -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that Robert Hanssen was very pale, looking rather gaunt. He surveyed the room several times. I assumed probably looking to see who was there. It turns out that the one family member, his son-in-law, was present. As we heard from Plato Cacheris, Robert Hanssen's lawyer, his family -- other family members were here in spirit.

Bottom line here, there is a trial date set for October 29. It will be a trial by jury. The lawyer also said that this set a record in terms of time for arraignments. It was all of about two minutes. I was sitting there and everyone sort of looked around the room, saying, is it over -- is that it? And then they escorted Mr. Hanssen out of the room. He was dressed in a green prison outfit with the word "prisoner" stamped on back. Quite a different image than we've had recently of him smiling in the photo that we have seen endless times on the air and in newspapers of a smiling, somewhat a confident, FBI agent.

The room was packed, mostly with media. There were some former colleagues that were present. At least one that we know who had worked with Mr. Hanssen for several years also as a counter espionage agent for the FBI. As I said, the most attendees, though, were, in fact, media who were there -- print media and some international media as well.

KAGAN: Kelli, I know you're trying to catch your breath. But a little rough in our coverage here as we were going to that the audio, so if we could just review exactly what happened in the -- in the two minutes in there. It was a -- it was a very quick proceeding and Mr. Hanssen or Mr. Cacheris just entered his plea and then -- and then he's going to stay in custody until October, as I understand it?

ARENA: That's right. The judge asked, you know, what do you plead? He said not guilty. Is that by a jury? Yes, we agree to a jury. They said that there was a mutual understanding between the U.S. attorney and Mr. Hanssen's lawyers for an October 29 trial date -- that he would be waiving his right to a speedy trial which just means that there are certain stipulations that won't have to be adhered to. The U.S. attorney also said that within the next 10 days that they would be putting forth some motions and schedules for legal proceedings from here on out.

Bottom line from Hanssen's lawyer, Plato Cacheris, the lead lawyer on that team, said that this was a record-setting arraignment. It was only a two-minute arraignment -- that he would stand by the not guilty plea. He also said that he wasn't sure that the death penalty was constitutional in this case, which will be an ongoing battle from here on out.

KAGAN: All right. We will continue our coverage. Kelli Arena, in Washington, thank you very much.

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