NATIONAL NEWS

Russian spy intrigue fizzles as Hawaii stolen ID trial nears

Apr 25, 2023, 10:35 AM

FILE - This combination of undated photos provided by the United States District Court District of ...

FILE - This combination of undated photos provided by the United States District Court District of Hawaii shows Walter Glenn Primose, left, also known as Bobby Edward Fort, and his wife, Gwynn Darle Morrison, also known as Julie Lyn Montague, purportedly in KGB, the former Russian spy agency, uniforms. U.S. prosecutors who introduced Russian spy intrigue into the case of the couple accused of living for decades in Hawaii under identities stolen from dead babies are now saying they don't want jurors to hear about the photographs showing them wearing foreign uniforms. A U.S. judge granted the request, ruling that the uniforms are not relevant to the upcoming trial. (United States District Court District of Hawaii via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(United States District Court District of Hawaii via AP, File)

U.S. prosecutors who introduced Russian spy intrigue into the case of a couple accused of living for decades in Hawaii under identities stolen from dead babies are now saying they don’t want jurors to hear about photographs showing them wearing foreign uniforms.

A U.S. judge granted the request last week, ruling that the uniforms are not relevant to the upcoming trial for charges involving identity theft and passport fraud. Defense attorneys have said from the start those uniforms were worn once for fun.

When the former U.S. defense contractor and his wife were arrested last year, prosecutors suggested the case was about more than just identity theft.

According to prosecutors, Walter Glenn Primrose and Gwynn Darle Morrison are the real names of the couple who have been fraudulently living for decades under stolen identities Bobby Fort and Julie Montague. Prosecutors say Primrose spent more than 20 years in the Coast Guard as Bobby Fort, where he obtained secret-level security clearance. After retiring in 2016, he used the secret clearance for his defense job, prosecutors said.

There is no indication in court papers why the couple in 1987 assumed the identities of deceased children, who would have been more than a decade younger than them.

A search of the couple’s home in Kapolei, a Honolulu suburb, turned up Polaroids of them wearing jackets that appear to be authentic KGB uniforms, an invisible ink kit, documents with coded language and maps showing military bases, prosecutors said.

They have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, false statement in a passport application and aggravated identity theft. Trial is scheduled for next month but could be delayed because a new lawyer was appointed for Primrose last week.

Prosecutors last month filed a motion “to preclude examination or testimony concerning Defendants wearing or being photographed in foreign military uniforms.” Prosecutors said they were irrelevant to the charges and U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi agreed.

Defense attorneys for the couple have said they took a photo wearing the same jacket years ago as a joke.

In an email from prosecutors to defense attorneys, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Muehleck wrote that a witness said the photos were taken sometime in the 1990s and U.S. agents were given the “alleged uniform.”

Defense attorneys said that debunks the spy theory.

In a subsequent email from prosecutors to defense attorneys about seized letters referring to the couple using other aliases, Muehleck wrote, “The United States retracts that argument,” adding that they later learned those were just nicknames “and some of them were the product of inside jokes in relation to Primrose and Morrison.”

Alexander Silvert, a retired federal defender for the Hawaii district who is not involved in the case, said it sounds like prosecutors overreacted to the photos.

Upon searching further, “they probably … realized they overreacted and these are not Russian spies,” he said. “These are people who stole other people’s identity, which is not, unfortunately, uncommon these days.”

But there’s also another far-fetched possibility, he said.

“The wild conspiracy theorists would say maybe they really are Russian spies, but the government doesn’t want anybody to know that,” Silvert said.

In response to an Associated Press email asking what became of the spy speculation, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Enoki, a spokesperson for the office, said, “We have nothing further to add to any public filings or comments already made.”

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday for Morrison’s request to reconsider a previous detention ruling. A hearing for Primrose’s similar request hadn’t yet been scheduled.

“I said from the beginning this is not a Russian spy case,” Silvert said. “It’s just a vanilla ID theft that had a wrinkle to it.”

National News

Associated Press

Appeals court makes it harder to disqualify absentee ballots in battleground Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Absentee ballots still count in Wisconsin even if voters’ witnesses fail to give election clerks their full address, a state appeals court has ruled. The decision Thursday by the 4th District Court of Appeals is expected to expand the number of absentee ballots that will be counted in the battleground state […]

9 minutes ago

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper touts Medicaid expansion reaching 500,000 enrollees during a news co...

Associated Press

North Carolina’s Medicaid expansion program has enrolled 500,000 people in just 7 months

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — More than 500,000 North Carolina residents have enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program since it went live about seven months ago, officials announced Friday. Gov. Roy Cooper, joined by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley and two health care professionals held a news conference to […]

10 minutes ago

Pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico are displayed as part of the 'Repatriation and Its Impact' exhi...

Associated Press

Small Nashville museum wants you to know why it is returning artifacts to Mexico

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When Bonnie Seymour took a job as assistant curator of Nashville’s Parthenon museum, one of the first things she did was to look through the collections. Among paintings by American artists and memorabilia from Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition — the event for which the Parthenon was built — she found a […]

14 minutes ago

FILE - U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks before President Joe Biden at the Earth Rider Brewe...

Associated Press

Sen. Klobuchar says she’s cancer-free but will get radiation as precaution after a spot removal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Friday that she remains cancer-free following her bout with breast cancer in 2021, but doctors recently removed a small calcification and that she’ll get radiation treatment as a precaution. The Minnesota Democrat, who chairs the powerful Rules Committee, was successfully treated for early-stage breast cancer three years […]

49 minutes ago

Associated Press

An Ohio mom was killed while trying to stop the theft of a car that had her 6-year-old son inside

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio mother who tried to stop two men from stealing her car with her 6-year-old son inside was killed when the vehicle struck her. The boy was unharmed, police said, and no other injuries were reported. Alexa Stakely, 29, of Pickerington, was at an apartment complex in Columbus to pick […]

2 hours ago

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., enters federal court in New York, Friday, July 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Pamel...

Associated Press

New York jury ready to start negotiations at Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York jury was expected to begin deliberations around midday Friday in the bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez in New York City after a judge finishes reading them instructions on the law. The trial has played out for the past two months in Manhattan federal court, where prosecutors say […]

2 hours ago

Russian spy intrigue fizzles as Hawaii stolen ID trial nears