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William Remington : biography

October 25, 1917 - November 24, 1954

William Walter Remington (October 25, 1917 – November 24, 1954) was an economist employed in various federal government positions until his career was interrupted by accusations of espionage made by the Soviet spy and defector Elizabeth Bentley. He was convicted of perjury in connection with these charges in 1953, and murdered in prison in 1954. His death has been cited as one of the few murders attributable to McCarthyism.

Second round of investigations

In 1950, the FBI and the federal grand jury in New York City reopened their investigations of Remington and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened a third. Because of continuing suspicions about him, Remington had been demoted at the Commerce Department, and his once-promising career in the Truman administration was stagnant. Ann Remington, now divorced from him,Remington was married twice. His second wife was Jane Alben. He had two children, Galeyn and Bruce, with Ann Moos, and a second son, Neil, with Jane Alben. Jane Alben died in 1994; Ann Moos remains alive, in her 90s, as of 2012. See , May 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-08. was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Initially reluctant, she testified that her husband had been a dues-paying member of the Communist Party, and that he had given secret information to Elizabeth Bentley while knowing that Bentley was a Communist. A few days later she recanted, and stated that she would claim marital privilege and refuse to testify against her ex-husband in any trial. The grand jury decided to indict Remington for committing perjury when he denied ever being a member of the Communist Party.


  • Gary May, Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington (NY: Oxford University Press, 1994)

Category:1917 births Category:1954 deaths Category:People from Ridgewood, New Jersey Category:Dartmouth College alumni Category:Columbia University alumni Category:American civil servants Category:American spies for the Soviet Union Category:People murdered in Pennsylvania Category:American people who died in prison custody Category:Prisoners who died in United States federal government detention Category:American criminals Category:American murder victims Category:American perjurers

Two trials

Remington's first trial began in late December 1950. Roy Cohn, later to become famous as Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel and already a noted anti-communist, joined the prosecution's legal team. Ann Remington reversed herself again and testified that her ex-husband had been a Communist Party member and that he had knowingly given secret information to Elizabeth Bentley. Bentley testified, repeating her charge that Remington had given her secret information, saying with regard to the synthetic rubber formula, "He said to me that...he thought that the Russians would need something very much like this." The prosecution also showed that Remington had handled secret documents that were somewhat similar to the aircraft production information that Bentley said she received from Remington.

During the trial, the defense attorneys revealed that John Brunini, the foreman of the grand jury that indicted Remington, had a personal and financial relationship with Elizabeth Bentley and had agreed to co-author a book with her.

Remington was convicted after a seven-week trial. Judge Gregory E. Noonan handed down a sentence of five years - the maximum for perjury - noting that Remington's act of perjury had involved disloyalty to his country. Remington's conviction was celebrated by many. An Washington Daily News editorial said: "William W. Remington now joins the odiferous list of young Communist punks who wormed their way upward in the Government under the New Deal. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and he should serve every minute of it. In Russia, he would have been shot without trial."

Remington's attorneys appealed the verdict, and the judicial panel hearing the case included Judge Learned Hand, one of America's most eminent jurists. The conviction was overturned on the grounds that Judge Noonan's instructions to the jury were too vague as to exactly what constituted "membership" in the Communist Party, and a new trial was ordered. Hand also criticized grand jury foreman John Brunini and Thomas Donegan, the assistant to the Attorney General who directed the grand jury investigation, for Brunini's relationship with Bentley and for "judicial improprieties" in their abusive treatment of both Ann and William Remington during questioning.

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