98 Year Old Seeks To Overturn McCarthy Era Conviction-“I Don’t Like That I Am A Convicted Felon”

On December 4, 2014, perhaps the oldest living victim of the McCarthy era paranoia that gripped America in the 1950s will have the opportunity to vacate her 64 year old conviction and restore her good name.

This is a story that movies are based upon–spies, the Soviet Union, secrets and espionage. Only no Hollywood movie was made about Miriam Moskowitz, her married lover, Abraham Brothman or Soviet spy, Harry Gold.

Miriam Moskowitz along with her lover, Abraham Brothman, were convicted on November 28, 1950, for conspiring to obstruct justice in the same courthouse where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were soon to be put on trial for treason for giving secretive atomic bomb information to the Soviet Union. Miriam was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

As she served her time, she thought daily of how she was going to make the prosecutors, judge, and others involved in her conviction pay for their wrong doing. Now, at 98 years of age, almost 64 years after her conviction, Moskowitz is the only one alive to tell her story.

Photo courtesy of desertpeace.wordpress.com

Photo courtesy of desertpeace.wordpress.com

And this is her story.

At the age of 34, Miram found herself involved with a married man, Abraham Brothman, a chemical engineer whose known associates included Harry Gold, a U.S. citizen and admitted Soviet spy. The Red Scare was front page news. The FBI began following her and shortly thereafter brought in and interrogated Brothman and Gold in an attempt to tie them together as co-conspirators involved in espionage with the Soviet Union.

Gold initially told the FBI that Moskowitz was not involved in any espionage. Thereafter, in an attempt to have the prosecutors take the threatened death penalty off the table, Gold agreed to deal and offered Miram up as a co-conspirator along with Brothman.

Moskowitz, believing she was innocent, refused to testify before the grand jury and have her relationship with the married Brothman exposed. At the trial, Brothman and Moskowitz were charged with conspiring to lie to the grand jury and federal agents investigating a suspected spy plot involving Gold, and Gold was charged later with espionage. Brothman and Moskowitz were found guilty and were sentenced to two years in prison. Gold was sentenced to 30 years.

In 2008, over the United States’ objection, the grand jury minutes exposing the deal and initial investigation of Gold where he claimed Moskowitz was not involved in any conspiracy was ordered unsealed due to their “substantial historical importance.” In August, 2014, Miram petitioned the court to have her felony conviction vacated because the soon-to-be Rosenberg prosecutors had withheld critical grand jury testimony relating to the only witness that would testify against her during trial—Harry Gold.

According to the papers filed with the court, Moskowitz did not discover the contradictions in Gold’s damming testimony against her until 2010 when she was doing research for her book.

After their release from prison in 1952, Moskowitz and Brothman were no longer a couple. Her life as a convicted felon was about to begin. She was hounded and harassed by the FBI and Miriam found it impossible to keep a job with agents constantly questioning her activities and patriotism.

Haunted by her conviction, Moskowitz “found it painful to reveal [her] past.” She tried for decades to maintain a “low social profile” and to avoid drawing attention to herself. Finally, desperate and depressed, she contemplated suicide. While never going through with it, things were bleak until her life took a turn and she got a job as a teacher in 1970.

“It was the greatest time of my life. I have never known such bliss.”

She told the Los Angeles Times that she still regrets that she was never able to vote again, was never able to serve on a jury, never had any serious romances and never had any children.

“I would have wanted that very dearly. If it had never happened, I’d have had a houseful of children. By now, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. It would have been nice.”

There are two sides to this story. The other side is told by United States Attorney Preet Bharara.

In response to Moskowitz’s plea to the court to act “ before it is too late” and “correct this historical wrong by vacating the conviction,” Bharara has filed opposition claiming that Miriam has not established an error in 1950 trial, “let alone an error of the most fundamental character.”

Ignoring the idea that Gold had admitted lying to the FBI about Moskowitz’s knowledge or involvement, the government continues to rely upon Gold’s admittedly false testimony to uphold the conviction.

Dismissive of the claim that the government withheld evidence from Moskowitz at trial, Bharara claims that at the time of her trial and conviction there was no obligation by the government to disclose prior witness statements or turn over exculpatory evidence.

While that may have been the law in 1950, the ideas of fundamental fairness and constitutional protections are timeless. In essence, the government’s position is that she suffers no greater disability than any other felon.

Miriam Moskowitz is not seeking money from the government as a result of her conviction. She knows that she cannot go back in time. She wants one thing: To clear her name.

On December 4, 2014, she may get the opportunity to do just that—at 98 years young.