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Alaska soldier to be sentenced in espionage case

Updated Thursday, April 11, 2013 | 5:30 p.m.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska-based soldier convicted of attempted espionage faces up to life in prison when he goes before a U.S. Army sentencing panel Monday, the military said Thursday.

Spc. William Colton Millay pleaded guilty last month, but his plea was announced only on Thursday by officials at Joint Base Richardson-Elmendorf in Anchorage. JBER spokesman John Pennell said the primary reason for the delay is because of the process of selecting the panel, which functions as a penalty jury. Officials decided to wait until closer to Monday's hearing — when Millay originally was scheduled to begin a general court martial — "so that we would have less chance of tainting the panel," Pennell said.

Among other allegations, Millay, of Owensboro, Ky., was accused of transmitting national defense information to an undercover FBI agent he believed was a foreign intelligence agent.

Millay, 24, pleaded guilty March 19 to attempted espionage, soliciting a fellow service member to get classified material, issuing a false statement and communicating national defense information.

His attorney, Seattle-based Charles Swift, did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.

Millay, who will be sentenced at the Alaska base, is being held at Joint Base-Lewis McChord in Washington state where the closest military confinement facility is located. He was in Alaska for a routine motion when he decided to plead guilty, Pennell said. Any prison time would be served at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., according to Pennell.

The sentencing panel, to consist of five to 12 members, has a range of penalties it can consider for Millay, from prison time to dishonorable discharge.

Millay was arrested in October 2011.

Officials have declined to say what country Millay believed the FBI agent represented, but such details are likely to come out at the sentencing hearing, Pennell said.

Millay, a military police officer, was being observed during the espionage investigation and no damage occurred, officials have said.

His arrest at the Anchorage base stemmed from an investigation by the Army, FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Army officials said Millay "had access to the information through the course of his normal duties both stateside and on a previous deployment, and believed that it could be used to the detriment of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation." Officials have not said what time period was involved, but Millay's previous attorney, Steve Karns of Dallas, has said the allegations cover 2011.

Millay was assigned to a combat tour in Iraq from December 2009 to July 2010, and he served in Korea, according to the Army.

Officials have said the investigation did not involve a sting operation.

Officials have said there is no connection between Millay's case and one involving Bradley Manning, an Army private who is accused of disclosing secret intelligence to WikiLeaks. There also is no link between Millay's case and Benjamin Bishop, a Hawaii-based civilian defense contractor recently accused of giving military secrets to his much younger Chinese girlfriend, according to Pennell.

Millay began his Alaska assignment May 2011. Most members of his company were deployed to Afghanistan that year, but Millay was in the company's rear detachment that stayed behind.