NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 98-year-old retired New Jersey math teacher implicated in a Cold War atomic espionage case has asked a U.S. judge to throw out her 1950 conviction and fix a McCarthy-era “miscarriage of justice” of which she is the last surviving victim.
Miriam Moskowitz had been a secretary when she and former boss Abraham Brothman, a chemical engineer with whom she had an affair, were convicted in Manhattan for conspiring to obstruct justice by having lied to a grand jury investigating espionage.
Moskowitz served two years in prison following a trial that the lawyer Roy Cohn, who later worked for Senator Joseph McCarthy, the leading face of post-war U.S. anti-Communism, called a “dry run” for the government case against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
But Moskowitz said recently unsealed records show a chemist named Harry Gold lied when he testified at her trial that she was present when he and Brothman got their stories straight before speaking with the grand jury.
She said Gold had repeatedly told the FBI otherwise, but the defense hadn’t been told this.
And now the Washington Township, New Jersey resident says it’s time for the justice system to set the record straight.
“I‘m at the end of my life, and I want to clear my name,” Moskowitz said in a phone interview. “I don’t want to leave the scene with this hanging over me. I am at this moment a convicted felon. That’s a very hard thing to live with.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan declined immediate comment.
Moskowitz wrote the 2010 book “Phantom Spies, Phantom Justice” about her case.
“The trial was held at the height of the McCarthy period, when people were simply not rational politically,” Moskowitz said. “The prosecutor saw a golden opportunity to rack up a conviction on his credit, and he went to town.”
Moskowitz’s trial judge, Irving Kaufman, also handled the Rosenbergs’ trial. They were executed in 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage.
Never marrying or having children, Moskowitz said she has largely kept a low profile since her conviction.
“I am probably the last living victim of the McCarthy era,” she said in the interview. “I am a generous law-abiding citizen, and I don’t want this to be the end of how I am regarded.”
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York