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Ex-intelligence officer gets 10 years in espionage case

Sep 25, 2019, 6:12 AM
This photo released by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office shows Ron Rockwell Hansen, a former U.S. intelligence officer who pleaded guilty to trying to sell secrets to China. On Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, Hansen was sentenced to ten years in prison after admitting that foreign agents targeted him for recruitment. (Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office via AP)
(Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former U.S. intelligence officer convicted of trying to pass defense information to China was solemn as he was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison and said he “would give anything” to change his actions.

Ron Rockwell Hansen, 60, wearing a gray jumpsuit, apologized in a trembling voice to his family and former colleagues for “pain and damage” he caused.

“Your honor there simply are no words to accurately and fully express the depth of regret I have for my decisions and actions … I am so sorry,” he told the judge in Salt Lake City. “I would give anything to go back and change this. Anything.”

Hansen’s statement was punctuated by muffled cries from his family and friends who packed the courtroom and held hands during the hearing.

In March, Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government.

The Syracuse, Utah, resident was approached by foreign agents while he was working as a contractor for the U.S. government in China. Authorities say they offered him hundreds of thousands of dollars if he would pass along technology and information about U.S. military and intelligence issues.

Hansen had spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, including time with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He left the military in 2006 and spent several months as a civilian case officer with the agency.

Several years after he left the U.S. government, Hanson told authorities he attended trade conferences on behalf of China and shared information he gathered with officials connected to Chinese intelligence.

Charging documents allege he transferred forensic software worth several thousand dollars, in violation of export controls.

Prosecutors claimed he was paid as much as $800,000 over several years.

He was arrested in June 2018 on his way to a Washington airport, where prosecutors say he planned to board a flight to China.

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson reduced the 15-year sentence called for in plea agreement after considering Hansen’s cooperation with investigators.

“He has tried to do what he can to make things right,” Benson said. “It’s a very serious crime that speaks for itself, and we’re all sorry it happened.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lund said the information Hansen provided will help U.S. officials assess how foreign agents target Americans.

Don Hansen, the defendant’s older brother, said the reduced sentence was better than his family was expecting. The judge also recommended five years of supervised release following prison time.

“We’re pleased Ron recognized his mistake and we’re ready to move on as a family … we’re looking forward to moving out of the limelight,” he said.

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Ex-intelligence officer gets 10 years in espionage case