June 22, 2018 / 4:54 AM / 3 months ago

Reality Winner to change her plea on leaking Russian interference report

(Reuters) - A Georgia woman accused of illegally leaking a classified report on Russian interference in U.S. elections to a media outlet and charged with an espionage offense plans to change her plea, a document filed in federal court on Thursday showed.

FILE PHOTO: Combination photo showing Reality Winner, the U.S. intelligence contractor charged with leaking classified National Security Agency material is seen in these undated booking photos in Lincolnton, Georgia, U.S., received June 8, 2017. Lincoln County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

Reality Leigh Winner pleaded not guilty in June, 2017 after she was charged with passing the top secret National Security Agency report to The Intercept last year while working with Pluribus International Corp, which provides analytical services for U.S. defense and intelligence.

Attorneys for Winner, a 26-year-old from Augusta, Georgia, filed on Thursday a request in the Southern District of Georgia to change her not guilty plea, a court document showed.

A plea agreement, detailing her new plea, was also filed with the court, but was not made public.

Winner was charged on a federal grand jury indictment with a single count of willful retention and transmission of national defense information, a felony offense under the Espionage and Censorship Act that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Winner has spent the last year in jail after a federal judge ordered Winner to remain held without bond after prosecutors argued that she posed a flight risk and public danger, citing what they called “disturbing” comments found in her notebook.

In one notation she wrote: “I want to burn the White House down,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari told the judge. The prosecutor said investigators also found the names of three Islamic extremists known to federal authorities listed in Winner’s notebook.

According to a probable-cause affidavit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Winner admitted to intentionally printing a copy of the intelligence report in her office and mailing it to the news outlet.

The NSA document in question provided technical details on what it said were Russian attempts to hack election officials in the United States and a voting-machine firm before the presidential election in November, two U.S. officials with knowledge of the case have confirmed to Reuters.

The FBI said unauthorized disclosure of the secret document “could reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security,” though the government has not alleged that Winner sought to share the report with foreign agents.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Richard Pullin

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