Reality Winner Takes Plea Deal, Will Serve Five Years For Letting The Public Know About Russian Election Interference
from the cage-the-messenger dept
After being held in jail for over a year because the DOJ managed to talk a judge into viewing Reality Winner — leaker of single document pertaining to Russian interference in the US elections — as a national security threat in need of constant containment, Winner has agreed to plea deal. Trevor Timm reports for The Intercept:
Winner stated in federal court today that she pleads guilty to one count of violating Section 793 of the Espionage Act and will agree to a sentence of 63 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release.
As Timm points out, Winner’s leak of a single document confirming not only everyone’s suspicions, but things already stated by US government officials, will net her the longest sentence ever imposed on someone charged under the Espionage Act. These charges are particularly difficult to fight. Being charged with espionage prevents defendants from introducing anything that indicates a lack of malicious intent or speaks to any benefits the public may have received from reviewing a leaked secret document.
All a defendant can do is hope for a merciful court. Winner didn’t find one. Both the judge and prosecutors seemed intent on making this as miserable of an experience as possible. Almost every motion her lawyers filed was denied, along with bail, as the government painted Winner as a threat to national security. That the case was intrinsically tied to national security interests allowed the government to sidestep her requests and demands with ease.
In Winner’s case, the prosecution demanded debilitating secrecy restrictions that hampered the defense team for over a year. Prosecutors attempted to convince the judge that they didn’t even need to prove that the document Winner was alleged to have leaked even potentially could have harmed national security.
What Winner leaked came as a surprise to many state election officials. If the federal government had any evidence of Russian hacking attempts, it kept that to itself. Winner’s leak gave them the info the feds weren’t willing to share. The report was deemed important enough by one federal agency — the one charged with assisting state elections — that it actually directed state officials to read the leaked document and take steps to protect their election systems. And for that, Winner will spend the next eight years under direct control of the government that couldn’t be bothered to disseminate this info itself.