- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Attorneys for government leaker Reality Leigh Winner asked a federal appeals court on Tuesday to act fast on her request to be released from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawyers representing Winner, 28, filed a motion for expedited appeal with the aim of fast-tracking proceedings involving her bid to complete her sentence under home confinement.

Winner, an Air Force veteran and former national security contractor, pleaded guilty in 2018 to one count of leaking classified information and sentenced to 63 months imprisonment.

She is currently incarcerated at a medical prison in Fort Worth, Texas, and she is expected to complete her sentence in November 2021. Her lawyers recently asked that she be allowed to finish it from the confinement of her parents’ home, however, citing health and safety concerns caused by the continuing novel coronavirus outbreak.

Attorneys for Winner asked a federal court last month to let her out of prison early by arguing in part in that her history of bulimia nervosa and susceptibility to pneumonia makes her particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Their request was ultimately rejected by U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, on April 24.

Winner’s lawyers subsequently moved to challenge the judge’s decision in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta this month where their latest motion was filed Tuesday.

“Considering the exigent, fluid and dynamic nature of COVID-19 pandemic, and the grave stakes of the matter, Reality respectfully moves this Court to expedite the schedule of her appellate briefing for this appeal,” lawyers Joe D. Whitley and Brett A. Switzer wrote on behalf of Winner.

“Reality was doing well until the COVID-19 pandemic occurred,” they added. “However, Reality did not sign up for a possible death sentence or a punitive penalty that may leave her grievously ill when she pleaded guilty to her crime. Because she faces irreparable injury and possible death, Reality moves this Court to expedite her appeal.”

Winner’s lawyers have not filed an appellate brief on her behalf yet, but they proposed in the motion that the U.S. government is given 14 days to respond once they do. They would then have one week to reply, and oral arguments would begin within one week of the last brief being filed, under the legal team’s proposed schedule.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment when reached by The Washington Times. The Justice Department previously opposed releasing Winner from prison early, and Winner’s lawyers wrote in their latest filing that the government has confirmed it objects to their request for an expedited briefing schedule.

Winner pleaded guilty in connection with leaking a classified intelligence report involving the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She formally petitioned the Trump administration for clemency earlier this year.

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