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U.S. soldier sentenced to prison in Alaska espionage case

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier was sentenced to 19 years in prison for attempted espionage and related charges after he admitted to trying to pass on classified information to someone he believed was a Russian agent, federal officials said.

Army Specialist William Colton Millay, 24, was sentenced late on Monday after a military hearing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, where he was stationed when he was arrested in October 2011.

Millay was detained after making what prosecutors said were overtures to a woman he believed was representing the Russian government. The woman was actually an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, officials said.

The native of Owensboro, Kentucky, pleaded guilty in March to attempted espionage, failing to obey regulations, issuing a false statement, soliciting another to commit espionage and communicating national defense information.

Although he was sentenced to 19 years in prison, he will serve 16 years under a plea agreement, with time served in pre-trial confinement taken into account, federal officials said. He was also demoted to private and will receive a dishonorable discharge, federal officials said.

"Millay betrayed his nation's trust by attempting to sell classified national defense information for profit to a foreign nation," Deirdre Fike, FBI special agent in charge in Anchorage, said in a statement.

According to a document filed by Millay in the U.S. District Court, where investigative elements of the case were considered briefly, he met the woman he knew as "Natalia" at a restaurant in an Anchorage hotel.

Millay told the woman he had access to information regarding Army electronic systems capable of blocking cellphone-detonated improvised explosive devices.

Millay, who joined the Army in 2007, had a tour of duty in Iraq from December 2009 to July 2010 and was assigned to Elmendorf-Richardson in May 2011, officials said.

An eight-soldier panel of officers and senior noncommissioned officers imposed the sentence, Army officials said.

(Editing by David Bailey and Pravin Char)

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