Accused national security leaker loses appeal for bond

The woman accused of leaking a classified national security document from her contractor job at Fort Gordon won’t be released on bond pending her March 19 trial.

 

In a 17-page order signed Monday, U.S. District Chief Judge J. Randal Hall concluded the magistrate judge who presided over two bond hearings for Reality Leigh Winner made the right decision in finding her a potential danger to the community, as it relates to national security, and a possible flight risk.

Winner has been held without bond since her June 3 arrest. That day, federal agents executed a search warrant at her Battle Row rental home based on their investigation of a top secret document mailed anonymously from Augusta to an online media publication.

While the federal prosecutors contend the document remains classified, it has widely been reported about since The Intercept published a report based on a leaked document. The document was an analysis of the extent of Russian operatives’ meddling in the presidential election. The Russians efforts to influence the election and the possible collusion with Trump’s associates is the subject of a special prosecutor investigation and Congressional intelligence committees hearings.

Winner is charged with one count of violating the federal Espionage Act for allegedly removing a classified document from her job with Pluribus International at Fort Gordon on May 9 and mailing it the next day to The Intercept. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In Hall’s order, he denied Winner a hearing on the appeal, relying on the transcripts of the two prior detention hearings and the attorneys’ briefs to make his decision. He notes that Winner’s attorneys contend Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps didn’t give proper weight to the positive aspects of Winner’s case. But Hall agreed with Epps that the negatives outweigh the positives in this case.

“(The evidence) shows a person who sought out employment in a classified position with the intent to anonymously share information with news outlets and to cover her tracks while doing so,” Hall wrote. And, he continued, given the uncertainty of Winner’s knowledge or possession of other classified information, releasing her would pose a danger to the community, “particularly to the national security.”

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

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