Reality Winner, the former NSA contractor who last June pleaded guilty to leaking classified defense reports pertaining to Russian election interference to a media outlet, was sentenced today to 63 months in federal prison.
Reports state that it is the longest sentence the U.S. has ever handed down as punishment for the unauthorized release of government information to the media.
Sentenced under the Espionage Act, Winner, 26, told Chief Judge J. Randall Hall in court that she took “full responsibility” for the “undeniable mistake I made,” the New York Times has reported. While working in a U.S. government agency facility in Georgia last year, Winner printed out a top-secret intelligence report and subsequently provided a hard copy to an online news outlet, identified in various reports as The Intercept. She was arrested in Augusta, Ga. resident on June 3, 2017.
“The defendant schemed to take and disclose classified information she had sworn to protect — and then did so almost as soon as she had the chance,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, in a Department of Justice press release. “Today, she has been held accountable for her crime thanks to the hard work of the Department’s prosecutors and agents. I hope their success will deter others from similar unlawful action in the future.”
“When obtaining Top Secret clearance as a government employee or contractor, the handling of top secret information is clearly spelled out along with the ramifications of mishandling such information,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge J.C. Hacker of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “Revealing sources and methods to the advantage of our adversaries and to the detriment of our country will never be acceptable and the FBI and Department of Justice will spare no effort to prosecute and punish anyone who would do so.”