Reality Leigh Winner’s trial won’t come soon

Reality Leigh Winner’s trial on an allegation that she leaked a National Security Agency’s classified document won’t be anytime soon.

 

Winner, 25, will remain in custody, although her attorney can appeal Thursday’s detention order to U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall.

Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps made it clear Thursday that even with the waiver of the speedy trial provision in Winner’s case, everyone involved must push hard to get the case ready.

Winner is charged with one count of willful retention and transmission of a national defense document. Because the case involves NSA material – Winner is accused of copying a classified document while at work for a NSA private contractor at Fort Gordon – everyone from the judge, court personnel and the lawyers and their staff must obtain security clearances.

And until evidence is cleared by a classification agency, no one may view it, prosecutors told Epps on Thursday.

Epps asked the lawyers to return to court in two weeks for a status conference.

Federal prosecutors asked Epps to designate the case as “complex”. That releases the lawyers from the strict federal guidelines for closing cases within 100 days, said Augusta-area attorney Pete Theodocion.

“They (the prosecutors) want more time to investigate her,” Theodocion said. But even with the waiver of the speedy trial, the case won’t just sit, he said.

It was waived in Linda Schrenko’s case, said Theodocion, her defense attorney. Schrenko was charged with embezzlement of federal funds for education while serving as the state’s superintendent. She was indicted in 2004 and the trial was in May 2006. She opted to plead guilty before the trial ended and she was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Defense attorney Jacque Hawk said from the defense’s perspective, a speedy trial is only beneficial if you have a great defense and a client in jail.

It’s going to take some time for both sides in the Winner case to prepare for trial because of the national security aspects of the case, Hawk said. The last thing they want is to compound a breach in security, he said. Meanwhile, she will be getting credit for the time in jail if she pleads guilty or is convicted.

Hawk also said he would anticipate the case getting to trial within a year.

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

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