- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2017

A federal judge is weighing whether to release National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner from behind bars ahead of her trial next year in connection with allegedly leaking classified material information involving Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Epps heard arguments from federal prosecutors and Ms. Winner’s defense lawyers for more than five hours Friday before punting on whether to authorize the accused leaker’s release pending trial.

The judge said he required “further reflection and legal research” before ruling on the matter and promised to issue a formal legal ruling “as soon as possible,” Atlanta’s WSB-TV reported following Friday’s hearing in Augusta federal court.

Ms. Winner, a 25-year-old Air Force veteran, was arrested in June and charged with leaking a top-secret intelligence report to an online news publication obtained on the job at Pluribus, an Atlanta-based government contracting firm. The nature of the report and its recipient are redacted in court documents, but previous reporting suggests Ms. Winner is accused of mailing a classified NSA article to The Intercept new site concerning Russia’s involvement in last year’s presidential election.

Judge Epps denied the defendant bond shortly after her arrest but agreed to revisit the matter after Ms. Winner’s attorneys filed a motion this month urging her release. He’s expected to announce his decision next week, WSB-TV reported.

The imminent bond ruling will weigh heavily on two concerns raised by prosecutors, the network reported, who insisted she could flee the country or harm national security if released pending trial.

“The government put trust in this defendant once, and paid a price for it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari said at Friday’s hearing, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Just a single disclosure of sensitive information the defendant knows could be catastrophic to this country.”

“It’s safe to say that she knows things in her head that, if disclosed, could cause great damage,” Ms. Solari said. “She would be welcome with open arms by any one of our adversaries.”

Ms. Winner’s attorneys said their client had no intention of fleeing or harming the country, the newspaper reported.

“I can’t imagine anyone I know who’d feel in danger of Reality Winner living down the street,” said defense attorney John Bell, according to the report

Ms. Winner’s case is currently slated to go to trial beginning March 19. Prosecutors previously said they intend to seek a nine-year prison sentence if she’s convicted.

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