Prosecutors want Augusta cyber contractor Reality Winner held without bond in data breach case

Reality Winner Facebook photo with darker hair matching her alternate Twitter account under the name Sara Winners.

The prosecutors want Reality Winner, the Augusta woman accused of leaking a national security document to an online media site, held without bond pending trial, but the judge must use the same standard he has for any criminal defendant in federal court: Is she a risk to commit further crime or to flee the jurisdiction?

 

A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court for Winner, 25, who has been jailed since she was taken into custody Saturday when federal agents searched her Battle Row home. An arrest warrant was signed Monday that accuses her of “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.”

SEE MORE: Special Section on Reality Winner case

Winner worked for the contractor Pluribus International Corp., which holds a contract with the National Security Agency at Fort Gordon. According to the FBI agent who obtained the search warrant, Winner was identified as one of several people who had access to the classified document that was leaked and was the only person in the group who had on her work computer evidence of email communication with a media company.

Although not named in court documents, The Intercept (theintercept.com) published a report citing a classified document that detailed how the Russian military intelligence hacked into a voting software company and sent infected emails to more than 100 local election officials before last year’s presidential election. The online publication reported it received the document in the mail.

Winner reportedly told FBI agents that she mailed the document.

Although it is asingular crime for U.S. District Court in Augusta, the judge presiding over the detention hearing will use the same standards that he uses for any case in which the prosecution seeks to have a defendant held without bond, said Augusta lawyer and former federal prosecutor David Stewart. He said the issue is: Can the judge be assured the suspect will attend every court hearing, and is there any danger to the safety of the community?

Though not commenting on Winner’s case, Stewart said that in past cases prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, which is handling Winner’s case, the government has moved for detention.

“They tend to seek detention when they prosecute cases,” he said.

The last national security contractor prosecuted before Winner is Harold T. Martin III in Baltimore. Martin, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held without bond pending trial on allegations that he took tens of thousands of secret documents home.

The prosecutors have a high hurdle in the detention hearing, but the more media attention a case receives the harder it is for the defense, too, said Augusta area lawyer Danny Durham.

Unlike state courts in Georgia, the federal court has pretrial services – probation officers who prepare a pre-sentencing report for the judge, who determines whether bond is set. The federal judge also has a host of conditions to impose and probation officers to ensure those rules are followed to the letter, Durham said.

Augusta area lawyer Bill Sussman, who practices in state and federal courts, said most defendants in federal court are presumed to be eligible for release on bond. The pretrial release monitoring is intensive, and any violation means jail and the loss of the money posted for bond, he said:

“It’s a double-edged sword.”

Reach Sandy Hodson at sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com or (706) 823-3226.

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