Reality Leigh Winner, an Air Force veteran in prison for leaking classified information about Russian election interference, encountered objections Monday to being released early.
A Department of Justice attorney said in a federal court filing that the U.S. government is against letting Winner finish her prison sentence under home confinement, rejecting concerns raised by her lawyers recently about the risks of remaining behind bars during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Even if this Court were to find that it has jurisdiction to consider Winner’s compassionate release, it should exercise its discretion and decline to grant it,” U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine wrote on behalf of the Justice Department.
Winner, 28, is currently serving a 63-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2018 to one count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information.
Her lawyers requested in a court filing earlier this month that she be allowed to serve the remainder of her sentence at her parents’ home in rural Texas, citing her susceptibility to COVID-19, the highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
The Justice Department countered that Winner’s request was premature and added that she has not alleged to have any medical condition that might qualify her to be released early.
Winner’s lawyers said in a court filing earlier this month that she asked the Bureau of Prison on April 10 to release her to home confinement, adding that her request should be granted because she is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as a result of suffering from bulimia nervosa and depression.
The Justice Department responded by noting that inmates must wait 30 days after appealing to the Bureau of Prisons for a reduction in sentencing before seeking reprieve from the courts and that neither of the medical conditions cited by Winner are serious enough to grant her request to be released.
Chief U.S. District Judge James R. Hall, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, has not yet indicated when or how he will rule on Winner’s request to be released early.
Winner, a former airman, was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency when she was arrested and charged with leaking an NSA report detailing Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. She is currently incarcerated at Carswell FMC, a medical prison in Fort Worth, Texas, and scheduled to be released in November 2021.