June 25, 2005 in City

Pair cleared in espionage case

By The Spokesman-Review
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Cummings
(Full-size photo)

A former Spokane couple accused of threatening national security by passing top-secret documents to three antigovernment groups were found innocent Friday of all espionage charges against them.

Rafael Davila and Deborah Cummings, who are divorced, were arrested in February 2003. He was accused of stealing secret government documents. She was charged with possessing and distributing them to three anti-government groups.

Cummings, who told military authorities about the documents while estranged from her husband, was found guilty of lying to FBI agents, a charge that carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Davila is a former Washington Army National Guard intelligence officer, who earned the Bronze Star while fighting in the Vietnam War.

Prosecutors alleged that he stole classified documents, including military contingency plans, while in the Army National Guard and stored them on his basement stairs before moving them to a rental storage locker in north Spokane.

Cummings, a former special education teacher, was accused of selling some of the documents to antigovernment groups.

“It was a good vindication for a real good soldier who … has been hanging under this cloud based on false accusations,” said Davila’s attorney, Mark Vovos. “This has been devastating for him.”

The trial lasted 2 1/2 weeks. The jury met for two days before delivering a verdict Friday afternoon.

Cummings’ attorney, Christian Phelps, told jurors that Cummings was angry at Davila and made up the story that Cummings had stolen top-secret documents in an act of revenge while the two were estranged.

“My client does not agree with the case I tried,” Phelps said.

Phelps said he is not allowed to say what items were alleged to have been stolen because they are classified. However, he said, prosecutors were unable to prove that any of them were missing.

Cummings said Friday that she has not lied to investigators about Davila or any other part of the case.

“My integrity is involved in this, and I want the truth to prevail and have my integrity be intact,” she said. “I’ve been upfront and forthcoming.”

Phelps said he will ask a judge to dismiss the count of lying, which involved Cummings’ denial that she knew a man who was married at the former Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho. Cummings had gone to the wedding and was acquainted with him because she had attended Scottish dance lessons with him, he said.

“She was asked if she knew him, and she said no, but it was evident she did,” Phelps said. “That particular lie occurred a year into the investigation and there’s no evidence that it affected (the case) at all.”

If the lying charge stands, Cummings will be sentenced in September.

The attorneys representing Davila and Cummings said accusations that their clients were sympathetic to antigovernment and racist groups are baseless, especially considering that Davila is Hispanic.

“It was clear to the jury that this was a red herring,” Phelps said.

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