Reality Winner pleads guilty to leaking classified material
Reality Winner, a former government contractor accused of leaking confidential information to the media, pleaded guilty as charged on Tuesday, according to court documents.
Winner, 26, was charged with one count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information in June 2017. She was accused of taking a report about a 2016 Russian military intelligence cyberattack from the facility where she worked and sending it to an online news outlet. She faced 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Court documents indicate that on Tuesday she changed her initial “not guilty” plea to guilty in US District Court in Augusta, Georgia.
The change was part of a plea deal with prosecutors that calls for the 63 months in prison, according to The New York Times.
In an email, her attorney, Joe Whitley, called the hearing “an important and significant day” for Winner.
“She has taken this matter seriously, and has made a very difficult decision that will no doubt impact the rest of her life,” Whitley said. “Reality wishes to thank the numerous individuals and organizations who have supported her through this process.”
The plea is conditional upon the judge’s acceptance, Whitley said. A sentencing date has not been set. Winner remains in custody.
Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, said in a Facebook post that the plea brought brought a measure of reassurance.
“I feel relief knowing we can now move forward and plan. I truly hope that the court will consider Reality’s age, service in the Air Force, volunteer work, and desire to do Humanitarian work when considering her punishment. I hope she is sent to a facility near home,” she said.
The former US Air Force linguist is accused of leaking classified information detailing a classified National Security Agency memo. The information was used as the basis for an article published in June 2017 by The Intercept.
The NSA report, dated May 5, provided details of a 2016 Russian cyberattack on a US voting software supplier, though there is no evidence the hack affected any votes. Winner was arrested on June 5, the same day The Intercept published its report.