Bond denied for Reality Leigh Winner in leak of classified documents case

Bond was denied Thursday afternoon for Reality Leigh Winner, an Augusta woman who is suspected of leaking a classified document to an online news agency.

 

Winner, 25, appeared in U.S. District Court in Augusta for a detention hearing Thursday afternoon. She entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of willful retention and transmission of national defense information.

FULL COVERAGE: Reality Leigh Winner

At the conclusion of a nearly three-hour hearing, Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps ruled in favor of detention, saying Winner could pose a danger to the entire country because of the government’s national security secret she might have shared already and the secrets she might be harboring in her head.

The four factors he had to consider: the type of offense, the weight of the evidence, Winner’s character and the potential danger to the community or the risk of flight, Epps said. Winner, he said, is accused of violating her top secret security clearance to obtain a top secret document that was leaked to a media outfit. The evidence is strong in that she reportedly left a trail of clues behind, she confessed and in a recorded call to her mother from jail, Winner indicated she might have had more than one classified document.

Since February, Winner has worked for a National Security Agency contractor, Pluribus, at Fort Gordon. She took the job after serving for six years in the Air Force where she obtained top secret clearance while working as a linguist, specializing in languages of the Middle East. The indictment, returned Wednesday, accuses Winner of using her position of trust to take a classified document May 9 and mailing it to a news outlet two days later.

Winner was taken into custody Saturday by federal agents who executed a search warrant at her home. An investigation was launched when a reporter with The Intercept reportedly contacted government officials with a classified document that detailed how Russian intelligence attempted to influence last’s year election that sent Donald Trump to the White House.

On Thursday, Winner’s mother and stepfather described the young woman they knew, one who gave up a full scholarship to study engineering at Texas A&M to join the Air Force after graduating from high school. They would pledge their home and the 20 acres of land they own as security for Winner’s bond.

“I know in my heart she would not do anything to jeopardize that,” Gary Davis said of Winner’s release on bond.

She started learning Arabic on her own before she finished high school, a language she loved, said her mother, Billie Winner-Davis. Her friend Ann Demasi, who has known Winner for six years, testified she trusts Winner 100 percent and has never known her to lose control or act violently. She does, Demasi said, have a dry sense of humor and has a tendency to use hyperbole.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Golari painted a picture of another side of Winner, and said “some of the information is downright frightening.” In a call to her mother Sunday night from the Lincoln County jail where she is being held, Winner said she was in trouble because of “those documents,” plural, Golari said. In a phone call to her sister, Winner said she was willing to use the “pretty white girl” in court and that if she didn’t get bond would go nuclear with the media, Golari said.

Winner, the prosecutor said, had notes about software to enter the “dark” web anonymously, to change SIM card on cell phone to use anonymously, and setting up a single-use, burner email account. She wrote, “I want to burn the White House down.” She wrote the names of Taliban leaders, and referred to a Muslim leader’s vision of a fundamental Islamic state as Christ like, Golari said. She wrote of wanting to travel to the Middle East and had researched taking a trip to Israel in the fall, the prosecutor said. She went to Belize for three days in May, and she has access to $30,000 to $35,000 of her own savings and over $12,000 raised by a Go Fund Me page, Golari said.

“Downright frightening?” defense attorney Titus Nichols responded. She once put a flash drive in a work computer, that doesn’t make her a Taliban recruit. She has absolutely no history of violence, and her alleged confession came after being confronted by 10 armed federal agents at her home Saturday, he said. Saying she could be a “pretty white girl” is not evidence she’s a threat to anyone.

“The government is scrapping and crawling to build a mountain out of a mole hill,” Nichols said. They want to deem Winner sinister because as a millennial she freely uses technology, he said.

The judge said, however, he believed the government had made its case that Winner should be held without bond. No one knows what became of the flash drive or what might be on it, and no one knows what secrets she may have in her head, Epps said.

Winner faces a potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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

B. M. Michales 16 days ago
Send a message, 10 years in prison.
JIM BIBLE 15 days ago
Great news, now put her in jail for the maximum allowed by law for traitors, and other low-life's.
Jerry Whitcomb 15 days ago
She is 25 now. She, on her own, learned Arabic while in high school......which is what...8 or 9 years ago......while we were fighting a full fledged war against Islamic terrorism. And she "loved" the language. And she WROTE that if there was a war between Iran and America SHE WOULD STAND WITH IRAN. 

10 years isn't enough. She is not JUST guilty of willful retention. She is a full blown nutcase traitor. I'd prefer the death penalty but life without parole would do. 
Morris Jones 15 days ago
You know what would happen to that "Pretty white girl" in Iran or Iraq.
Elmer Dinkley 15 days ago
...she isn't even that "pretty."  Good luck with that defense tactic!
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Elmer Dinkley 15 days ago
Um, no she isn't cute.  Very plain-Jane if you ask me. 
Sarabeth Hile 14 days ago
Agree.  It seems pretty strange to hear such an "activist" attempting to trade on being "pretty and white", doesnt it?  Not at all in line with the shame she should be feeling for being so "privileged"....especially in this particular community.
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John Booth 15 days ago
You might be right Steve.  The law enforcement might be holding a Spade card to drop more charges at a later date.
Donald Sterling 15 days ago
If that is the best defense her attorney can come up with I suggest she get another...QUICK!  Through her confession, other statements, and evidence she is guilty.  If the news service knowingly published classified government documents they too should be in jail!

Roland SASSER 15 days ago
"Winner faces a potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000." Sounds good to me! She would make a great ISIL bride! At that point in time she would realize just how anti Christ like the Islamic State really is.
Elmer Dinkley 15 days ago
She doesn't strike me as the type who's concerned about Christian values to begin with.  She already lies, cheats, & steals for her own personal interests. 
ROY WHITLEY 15 days ago
I see nothing that implies she possesses Christian values.
Will Jones 15 days ago
Good call, Judge. 
Val White 15 days ago
She is definitely a flight risk and should not have even $10M bail money.  The nut cases in this country (and probably the ME) would raise the bail for her.
Val Herring 15 days ago
Throw her under the jail.
Ray Peery 15 days ago
So if we hold her without bond and give her 10 Years in prison, what do we give a President the shares classified information with the Russian Ambassador.  Just asking
David Jefferson 15 days ago
Information about terror groups? That information? The information he has discretion and obligation to share? What part of that is so difficult for you to grasp? I guess haters gotta hate.
ROY WHITLEY 15 days ago
I always enjoy reading the loco left insiders who happened to be in the presence of Pres. Trump when he leaked ANYTHING. Ray, are or were you one of the current or former source/s for the left stream media?
B. M. Michales 14 days ago
If you know of one let us know.
Sarabeth Hile 14 days ago
First, we don't know that he DID "share classified information", everyone that was present denies that it happened.  Second, the president can de-classify anything he wants to and share it as he sees fit.  So in answer to your question, we "give" him a break from left wing propaganda thats being disseminated by people who don't have any idea about the topic they're trying to discuss.
ROY WHITLEY 15 days ago
House her with comey.
David Jefferson 15 days ago
Bummer...Orange is not a good color for her.
William O. Darby 14 days ago
I think she looks great in that particular shade. She should NEVER take it off.  Maybe some matching lipstick. Do they allow lipstick in federal prisons?


William O. Darby 14 days ago
Ironic though that she called Trump an orange clown. 

Now she's joined the club??
B. M. Michales 14 days ago
Not to be a play on words or anything, but do you think the reality of what she has done is starting to sink in and does she now know she is a looser.

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