A prosecutor with the Justice Department appears to have inadvertently revealed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal as part of a separate case, according to a report Thursday.
The charges were disclosed in an unrelated case of a different person charged with coercion and enticement of a minor, CNN reported. There are reportedly two references to Mr. Assange in the court filing that argues for the third-party’s case to be kept sealed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer referenced the possible charges in an August filing in the Eastern District of Virginia in August, The Washington Post said. Mr. Dwyer is also working on the WikiLeaks case.
“[D]ue to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” he wrote in the filing.
Mr. Dwyer later wrote that the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”
A spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginia told The Post that the filing and Mr. Assange’s name were used by mistake.
The Post also reported that the charge against Mr. Assange has been filed, citing sources familiar with the case.
Carlos Poveda, an attorney for Mr. Assange, told CNN that the reports confirm Mr. Assange’s claim that his “life is at risk.”
Mr. Assange has been under investigation by the Justice Department since 2010, after WikiLeaks leaked thousands of classified reports on the war in Afghanistan. WikiLeaks also posted thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election.
The leak of the DNC emails has been a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Mr. Assange fled to Sweden in 2012 over allegations of sexual assault and rape. Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last year, but he still faces an arrest for violating his bail conditions if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Ecuadorian officials have publicly complained about hosting Mr. Assange. President Lenin Moreno referred to Mr. Assange as a “stone in our shoe.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe WikiLeaks and Russian hackers partnered to release emails stolen from the DNC during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Mueller is said to be investigating connections between Roger Stone, a longtime political operative and adviser to President Trump before the 2016 election, and WikiLeaks.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April 2107 that Mr. Assange’s arrest would be a Justice Department priority.
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and member of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, called Mr. Assange “an enemy of the people.”
“This is cut and dried: WikiLeaks is an outlet for foreign propaganda and Julian Assange is an enemy of the American people,” Mr. Sasse said in a statement. “He deserves to spend the rest of his life in an American prison. Assange is no ally to serious journalists or to defenders of free speech. He is in bed with Vladimir Putin who murders journalists and dissidents.”