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Convicted Spy Pollard Checks In With Feds In NYC Following Release From Prison After 30 Years

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard checked in at a federal probation office in New York City Friday following his release from prison in North Carolina, culminating an extraordinary espionage case that complicated American-Israeli relations for 30 years and became a periodic bargaining chip between two allies.

CBS2's Ilana Gold was the only local reporter there when Pollard arrived at federal court in lower Manhattan.

Exclusive video shows Pollard, who was wearing a blue yarmulke, loose khakis and a blue Oxford shirt, walking into the courthouse with his wife, Esther, and a supporter.

When Gold asked if he had anything to say about his release, Pollard replied: "No comment."

After reporting to the Department of Probation, Pollard was ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet with a GPS system, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.

He later left to a waiting SUV. One of Pollard's lawyers and a U.S. marshal, grasping Pollard firmly by the arm, escorted him through the crowd of jostling photographers.

Pollard had been granted parole this summer from a life sentence imposed in 1987. His lawyers have said that they have secured a job and housing for him in the New York area. According to court papers, he will be working at a financial firm in the city.

Pollard must follow strict guidelines while on parole.

"They had to conclude there was no probability he would commit a crime upon release," his attorney Eliot Lauer said.

Shortly after his release, Pollard's attorneys began a court challenge to terms of his parole that they called "onerous and oppressive,'' including requiring him to wear the ankle bracelet and the monitoring of any computer that Pollard may use either personally or at a job.

In their petition to a court for an easing of his parole restrictions, Pollard's lawyers complained that wearing a GPS monitor would be harmful to his health because he has severe diabetes and suffers chronic swelling in his legs and ankles. They said the computer monitoring was unnecessary because Pollard was no longer in possession of any classified information.

The terms of his parole also require Pollard to remain in the United States for at least five years, though supporters are seeking permission for him to move to Israel immediately.

Pollard's release from a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina came nearly 30 years to the day after his arrest for providing large amounts of classified U.S. government information to Israel.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who advocated on Pollard's behalf, welcomed the news of his release.

"We're very, very happy," Hikind told 1010 WINS. "He'll be in New York and it's just great."

Hikind said Pollard did much more time in prison than he should have.

"Those who spied for our enemies received sentences of 10 to 15 years and were freed," he told WCBS 880's Kelly Waldron. "The reason why he was kept so long is a story that is still to be told."

In a statement, Hikind also called on the president to allow Pollard to return to Israel.

"We appeal to President Obama to permit Pollard to go to Israel forthwith in order to live there with his wife Esther," he said.

The saga involving Pollard for years divided public opinion in the United States and became both an irritant and a periodic bargaining chip between the United States and Israel.

"The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,'' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "As someone who raised Jonathan's case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come.''

Supporters have long maintained that he was punished excessively for actions taken on behalf of an American ally while critics, including government officials, derided him as a traitor who sold out his country.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the crime merited a life sentence, given the amount of damage that Mr. Pollard did to the United States government,'' said Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted the case as U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. "I would have been perfectly pleased if he had spent the rest of his life in jail.''

Seymour Reich, a former president of B'nai Brith International who visited Pollard twice in prison, said that while he believed Pollard broke the law and deserved to be punished, his sentence was overly harsh. Like other supporters, he believes Pollard was "double-crossed'' into thinking he'd be afforded leniency in exchange for a guilty plea.

"I hope that he settles down and lives the remaining years as best as he can,'' Reich said.

Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He had earlier drawn the suspicion of a supervisor for handling large amounts of classified materials unrelated to his official duties.

U.S. officials have said Pollard, over a series of months and for a salary, provided intelligence summaries and huge quantities of classified documents on the capabilities and programs of Israel's enemies. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage and was given a life sentence a year later.

Though he has said his guilty plea was coerced, he has also expressed regret, telling The Associated Press in a 1998 interview that he did not consider himself a hero.

"There is nothing good that came as a result of my actions,'' he said. "I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work.''

Last year, the U.S. dangled the prospect of freeing Pollard early as part of a package of incentives to keep Israel at the negotiating table during talks with the Palestinians.

In an exclusive 2014 interview with CBS2, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said Secretary of State John Kerry made the offer as a carrot to the Israeli cabinet, so that its members would approve freedom for hundreds of Palestinians and keep the faltering peace process alive for another nine months.

But the talks fell apart, and Pollard remained in prison.

Under sentencing rules in place at the time of his crime, he became presumptively eligible for parole in November, 30 years after his arrest. The Justice Department agreed not to oppose parole at a July hearing that took into account his behavior in prison and likelihood to commit future crimes.

The parole decision was applauded in Israel, which after initially claiming that he was part of a rogue operation, acknowledged him in the 1990s as an agent and granted him citizenship. Israelis have long campaigned for his freedom, and Netanyahu said last summer that he had consistently raised the issue of his release with American officials.

Pollard's lawyers also have sought permission for him to travel immediately to Israel, and two Democratic members of Congress, Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, both of New York, have called on the Justice Department to grant the request so that Pollard can live with his family and "resume his life there.'' The congressmen say Pollard accepts that such a move may bar him from ever re-entering the United States.

The White House has said that it has no intention of altering the conditions of Pollard's parole, and even friends and supporters say they don't know exactly what's next for him.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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