The Accidental Jurist

Leonard Peltier. Stephen Miles. Now the witness who might break the Ramsey case. Itís no wonder Lee Hill thinks he needs to pack a pistol.

Hill also volunteered for flight training when the carrier returned to port in Florida. And while in port, he contacted the CIA and was invited for an interview. The meeting took place in a large, empty room where one man sat behind a desk. Figuring honesty was the best policy -- and that they'd probably find out anyway -- Hill told him everything about his past, including his drug use, though he did manage to leave out his association with Burroughs and Ginsberg.

It didn't seem to phase his questioner. However, at the end of the interview, the man suddenly leaned across the desk and snarled, "I don't know if you have the killer instinct."

Feeling the sudden accusation might be a test, Hill leaned forward and gave the attitude right back. He had a killer instinct, by God, if he needed one.

Lee Hill
Lee Hill
Action figures: Steven Seagal and Lee Hill are working on movie and television projects.
Action figures: Steven Seagal and Lee Hill are working on movie and television projects.

The answer seemed to satisfy the interviewer, but the man said the agency couldn't hire him while he was on active duty. If Hill was to somehow go inactive, he hinted, then the agency might be interested.

It so happened that a bad economy, and the release of the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, had swelled the number of volunteers signing up for the Navy. It was announced that anyone who had not completed specialty programs -- such as flight training -- could opt to go inactive and spend the rest of his time in the reserves. Hill had not yet received his wings, and was able to opt out with an honorable discharge. He left the Navy and his first marriage at the end of 1983.

He was disappointed when the CIA recruiter told him he was going to have to wait at least eighteen months. The agency didn't need him right away, so Hill decided to apply to law school at University of San Diego, never intending to practice law -- which he saw as a less-than-honorable way to make a living given his grandfather's experiences. But he believed that a law degree, combined with his Naval intelligence experience, would make him all the more valuable to the agency.

Hill was accepted to law school, where he met a German national who in June 1984 became his second wife. He accelerated his course work and received his degree in December 1985. He prepared to take the bar exam in February, still believing he would never have to work as a lawyer.

The week before he was to take the bar, the CIA flew Hill to San Francisco to meet with a career-operations officer. Like Burroughs, the agent handed him a reading list. This one included spy novels like The Spike (a story about how foreign journalists are manipulated by intelligence agencies) and former CIA operative Philip Agee's nonfiction Inside the Company.

Hill took the bar and then waited for the results. In the meantime, the agency flew him to Washington, D.C., where he was put through another battery of tests, including a polygraph examination. He had never wanted anything so badly in his life. In May, the agency offered him a position. He signed nondisclosure statements, as well as paperwork agreeing to go wherever he was sent. He was told to begin "fading away" -- starting with destroying any written evidence tying him to the agency -- and was even given a "cover" to explain his departure to his friends and family. He did as he was told.

There were a few more minor details to be cleared up, but he would soon hear about the next step. A week after he learned that he'd passed the bar, Hill heard from the CIA -- but it wasn't the news he expected. With little explanation and a polite thank you, he was notified by mail that his services were not needed.

It's 9 in the morning, and Julia Yoo is in her office, tunneling into a birthday cake. Her dad's birthday was the previous Saturday, but it's been difficult arranging all of their schedules so that they can celebrate. So they keep buying, and devouring, birthday cakes until they can get together with him. This is the fourth in a week. Sometimes it appears that the office runs on birthday cake and coffee.

Yoo was born and spent her childhood in South Korea. Her family moved to Colorado in 1982, and she went to high school in Denver. She got her bachelor's degree at Wellesley and was a "nomad" for several years before deciding to return home and attend the University of Colorado School of Law.

Like Hill, she claims she never intended to practice law. "I just figured that with a law degree everyone would want to hire me, no matter what I decided to do," she says. Then in mock outrage, she adds, "It's a lie. No one wants you. You're hostile, confrontational and aggressive! Who's going to hire you? No one!"

She is only half joking when she says, "I'm the real brains behind the operation." At least she's the one who realizes that there is a bottom line and such a thing as cost analysis -- not that she is any less likely than Hill to take on a lost cause or a finance-killing case.

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