Georgia woman facing ‘longest sentence’ for leaking to media

Reality Winner, 26, walks out of the Federal Courthouse in Augusta, Ga., Tuesday afternoon June 26, 2018 after pleading guilty to leaking a classified document allegedly taken while she was working as a NSA contractor at Fort Gordon, Ga. She has been held in custody for nearly 13 months on a charge of violating the federal Espionage Act. [MICHAEL HOLAHAN/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

(AP) — A Georgia woman who mailed a secret U.S. report to a news organization faces the “longest sentence” ever behind bars for a federal crime involving leaks to the news media, prosecutors said in a court filing.

Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, 26, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23 by U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall in Augusta. She pleaded guilty in June to a single count of transmitting national security information when she worked in Augusta as a translator at an NSA facility.

Winner’s plea deal with prosecutors calls for imprisonment of five years and three months. But the sentencing judge isn’t bound by that agreement. Winner’s crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

The Trump administration has made prosecuting government employees who leak sensitive information to the media a high priority, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged to clamp down on leaks last year.

In a court filing Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Winner’s case said the 63-month sentence they’re recommending is plenty stiff to deter other government workers from leaking sensitive information, even if it could be tougher.

“The government advises the Court that despite the agreed-upon sentence being below the applicable guidelines range, it would be the longest sentence served by a federal defendant for an unauthorized disclosure to the media,” the prosecutors wrote.

Authorities have never described the report Winner leaked or identified the news organization that received it.

The Justice Department announced Winner’s June 2017 arrest the same day The Intercept published an article on a classified NSA report suggesting Russian hackers attacked a U.S. voting software supplier before the 2016 election. The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner had leaked.