Reality Winner, accused of leaking report on Russian election hacking to press, to plead guilty

The young former intelligence specialist is accused of leaking to The Intercept.

June 22, 2018, 1:18 PM

Reality Winner, a former U.S. intelligence specialist accused of leaking a report on Russian election hacking, will change her plea to guilty when she appears for a hearing next week in Augusta, Georgia, according to court documents.

Winner, a six-year Air Force veteran, was charged a year ago with espionage for allegedly leaking information to The Intercept about potential Russian interference in the 2016 election.

She was denied bail and has remained in jail since her arrest, which is rare in espionage cases, according to the Courage Foundation.

“My daughter Reality has decided to change her plea. I believe that this plea is in Reality’s best interest at this time. Given the time and circumstances and the nature of the espionage charge I believe that this was the only way that she could receive a fair sentence. I still disagree strongly with the use of the espionage charge against citizens like Reality,” her mother, Billie Winner Davis, said in a statement through the Courage Foundation.

“The cards were stacked [against] her and she couldn’t defend herself against the espionage charge as that charge doesn’t allow for defendant to show public interest or best interest or intent,” Winner Davis continued.

Under the 1917 Espionage Act, Winner could face up to 10 years in prison.

“Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at the time of her arrest. "People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation."

The Obama administration also pursed espionage charges against some people accused of leaking government secrets.

At the time of the arrest, questions were raised about whether The Intercept failed to protect its source for the story. Just after the story was published the FBI arrested Winner.

In a statement at the time of the arrest The Intercept said a secret NSA document was provided to the media outlet completely anonymously.