A federal judge in Augusta on Thursday denied Reality Winner’s request to be released from jail pending her March 19 trial in the National Security Agency leak investigation.
Winner, 25, the first accused leaker to be prosecuted by the Trump administration, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of leaking an NSA report about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to The Intercept, an online news publication.
In his eight-page order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps said it’s possible the former Air Force linguist could flee the country and harm national security if she were freed. He said her own writings show she hates the United States and has plotted against the government, adding she admires former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“By her own words and actions, defendant has painted a disturbing self-portrait of an American with years of national service and access to classified information who hates the United States and desires to damage national security on the same scale as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden,” Epps wrote. “The nature and seriousness of the danger she poses to our nation is high.”
Epps also appeared to tip his hand when he wrote the evidence against Winner in the case is “strong.”
“During her initial interview with law enforcement, defendant admitted she leaked classified information to a news outlet,” Epps wrote. “Defendant also made damning admissions regarding the same in recorded jail phone conversations with her mother and sister. The circumstantial evidence corroborates defendant’s admissions.”
Last month, winner’s attorneys argued she should be released from jail pending her trial because new information had surfaced that weakens the government’s case for keeping her behind bars. They said in their court filing that her detention “is manifestly unjust, contrary to law, and not in accordance with the presumption of liberty.”
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“We’re obviously disappointed by the ruling,” Titus Nichols, one of Winner’s attorneys, said. “However, this will not stop us from continuing to fight for Reality as we move forward.”
Winner’s parents objected to the judge’s ruling in statements they issued through the Stand With Reality support group late Thursday evening.
“I am truly heartbroken and crushed,” said her mother, Billie Winner-Davis. “I am disappointed in the court’s decision and believe it is unfair. Her service to the country, and every commuity she has ever lived in, should have been weighed.”