A 98-year-old New Jersey woman found guilty of conspiracy in the run-up to the atomic spy trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg has asked a court to dismiss her conviction, saying documents released in the last decade show she was framed.
"I just want to end my life with a clear name," Miriam Moskowitz, of Washington Township, N.J., told the New York Post.
"I"m 98, and I don't want to depart this world with this thing hanging over me," she told the Wall Street Journal.
Moskowitz brought the legal action in Manhattan federal court Tuesday seeking to vacate her 1950 conviction on charges she conspired with two men to lie to a grand jury investigating allegations of atomic espionage. She was sentenced to two years in prison.
Her arrest was a front-page story in 1950 - "REDS SMASH ON IN FLANK ATTACK, Nab Man, Woman in Spy Plot," was the New York Daily News headline.
In court papers, Moskowitz said she was working on a book about her case in 2010 when she spotted conflicts between the trial testimony of a central figure in the case, Harry Gold, and statements he made to the FBI that were read to the grand jury.
Moskowitz's petition alleges that Gold changed his story after the government threatened him with the death penalty. She didn't testify at her trial, saying she refused to take the stand because she would have had to admit she was having an affair with a married man, Abraham Brothman, who was also convicted.
"Had the jury seen and heard this key evidence, no reasonable jury could have believed Gold's later testimony against Moskowitz," the papers say. "Without that recanted testimony, Ms. Moskowitz could never have been convicted."
The former teacher says the trial and its aftermath changed the course of her life.
"The effects of my conviction have had, and continue to have, profound effects," she said in the court papers. "For decades after my incarceration, I felt I had to avoid attention and keep a low social profile with new friends, and experienced shame in certain interactions within the community."
"I was portrayed as a monster, and I did nothing wrong," she told the Post, "and it affected my relationships, my entire life."
"I never married or had children," she claims in the court papers, "because, for decades after my conviction, I found it painful to reveal my past. After my release from prison, FBI agents repeatedly harassed me at my workplace, making it impossible for me to keep a job."
According to the Post, lawyer Roy Cohn, who gained fame during the McCarthy hearings established to root out American communists, was one of the prosecutors in Moskowitz's trial, calling it a "dry run" for the trial of the Rosenbergs, who were executed as communist spies.
The Rosenbergs were convicted of passing nuclear weapons secrets to the Soviet Union and were executed in 1953. Since then, decoded Soviet cables have appeared to confirm that Julius Rosenberg was a spy, but doubts have remained about Ethel Rosenberg's involvement.
In 1947, Brothman and Gold were questioned by the FBI about allegations they were involved in atomic espionage, the court papers said. Moskowitz then worked as Brothman's secretary and was having an affair with him.
Her lawyers say Gold repeatedly told the FBI that Moskowitz was unaware of Gold and Brothman's plan to lie before the grand jury until the government threatened him with the death penalty. They say he then cooperated and testified against Moskowitz at trial, saying she was there when they discussed their perjury plans.
Contributing: Associated Press