A Hawaii woman prosecutors say lived under an assumed identity for decades—and may have ties to Russian intelligence—doubled down on the alleged charade during a detention hearing with her husband on Tuesday.
Asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Rom Trader to state her name, Gwynn Darle Morrison replied, “They are calling me Gwynn Darle Morrison.”
In 1987, Morrison, 67, and husband Walter Glenn Primrose, also 67, used the birth certificates of two dead Texas infants to begin a years-long masquerade as “Bobby Edward Fort” and “Julie Lyn Montague,” according to a criminal complaint first reported last week by The Daily Beast. In 1988, the feds say the couple—who had already wed as Walter Primrose and Gwynn Morrison—remarried each other “under their respective assumed identities,” the feds say.
Megan Kau, Morrison’s lawyer, told Trader, “My client maintains that her name is Julie Lyn Montague, and [says] that’s the only thing that she’s ever gone by.”
Later in the hearing, Trader asked Primrose to also state his name— but got a very different response.
“Walter Glenn Primrose,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck told Trader he was flummoxed by Morrison’s behavior.
“Your honor, it’s a little strange here that the defendant maintains… she is Julie Lyn Montague,” Muehleck said. “You know, her sister was interviewed by the FBI and was shown a picture of the Julie Lyn Montague Hawaii driver’s license with the defendant’s photograph on there, and said, ‘That appears to be Gwynn, but the date of birth is wrong.’”
Morrison and Primrose, who are detained in a federal lockup, appeared separately by phone, due to COVID protocols. Both entered not guilty pleas.
In 1994, Primrose joined the Coast Guard as Bobby Fort, who would have been 27 at the time. Primrose was actually 39 years-old—eight years over the cutoff age for new recruits.
Primrose was eventually granted a secret-level security clearance, and retired from the Coast Guard as an avionics technician in 2016 after a 20-year hitch. He then went on to work as a cleared defense contractor at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point near Honolulu. His clearance was still active when he and Morrison were arrested on July 22, according to court filings.
Morrison once lived in Romania during the Soviet era, according to prosecutors, who have not yet been able to explain what she was allegedly doing there. When federal agents searched the pair’s home in Oahu, they discovered documents written in code, maps of military bases, and an invisible ink kit, the feds say. And when the couple were briefly left alone, but didn’t know their conversation was being recorded, they allegedly referenced “things consistent with espionage.”
“Federal agents have… seized photographs from the defendants’ residence that depict the defendants apparently some years ago wearing what have been identified as KGB uniforms,” prosecutors said in a detention memo filed July 25. And in a court appearance last week, prosecutors said investigators had learned from associates of Primrose and Morrison that the two “had a longstanding interest in espionage and expressed anti-government and anti-military sentiments.”
The two left their home in Texas in the 1980s “suddenly,” and told family they were entering the witness protection program, according to assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Myers.
On Tuesday, Morrison’s lawyer, Megan Kau, called the government’s evidence “vague,” and disputed that the pictures were in any way incriminating.
Kau said the “alleged photograph” of Morrison “wearing an alleged KGB uniform,” had been taken “some time ago… in somebody else’s home.” Primrose was also seen in KGB garb, which Kau claimed was the same outfit that Morrison was wearing.
“They’re wearing T-shirts,” Kau told Trader. “My client, at least, looks like she’s wearing a T-shirt underneath [the] jacket.”
Kau asked for Morrison’s release, arguing that prosecutors have not provided enough material via the discovery process for her to adequately debrief her client about her past, including any aliases she may have used.
But Muehleck pushed back, arguing to keep Morrison and Primrose detained.
“We have a situation here where this defendant and her co-defendant, of course, have used false identities to deceive Social Security, the Department of Defense, the Hawaii Department of Transportation, [and] the State Department’s National Passport Center, for 30 years,” he said. “And there’s no verification of who she says she is.”
Muehleck emphasized the mystery of the KGB uniform photos, noted that Morrison has “traveled foreign,” and joined Primrose on unreported trips to Canada while he was in the Coast Guard.
“This is a situation where it is a classic case to detain for flight risk,” he argued.
To this, Trader said, “At this point, I can’t even really say that I have confidence as to who Ms. Morrison, or Montague, really, truly is. It really begs the question as to whether or not she can be trusted to comply with any terms and conditions that the court sets.”
He ordered Morrison and Primrose both detained pending trial. Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 26.
The two are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; making false statements on a passport application; and aggravated identity theft.