Reality Winner, NSA contractor in leak case, out of prison

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FILE- In this June 26, 2018 file photo, Reality Winner walks into the Federal Courthouse in Augusta, Ga. Winner, 29, a former government contractor who was given the longest federal prison sentence imposed for leaks to the news media, has been released from prison to home confinement, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Monday. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former government contractor who was given the longest federal prison sentence imposed for leaks to the news media has been released from prison to home confinement, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Monday.

Reality Winner, 29, has been moved to home confinement and remains in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons, the person said. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

She pleaded guilty in 2018 to a single count of transmitting national security information. Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in prison, which prosecutors said at the time was the longest ever imposed for leaking government information to the news media.

Her release was hailed as a cause for celebration after advocates had spent years fighting for her release or a pardon. Her lawyer, Alison Grinter Allen, said in a statement that Winner and her family are working to “heal the trauma of incarceration and build back the years lost.”

She said they are “relieved and hopeful” after her release from prison.

The former Air Force translator worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it tucked into her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet.

Authorities never identified the news organization. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s June 2017 arrest the same day The Intercept reported on a secret NSA document. It detailed Russian government efforts to penetrate a Florida-based supplier of voting software and the accounts of election officials ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner had leaked.

At the time of her sentencing, Winner was given credit for more than a year she spent in jail while the case was pending in U.S. District Court. She was sent to home confinement just a few months ahead of her release date of Nov. 23, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

“My actions were a cruel betrayal of my nation’s trust in me,” Winner told the judge at her sentencing in August, 2018.

Previously, Winner had unsuccessfully tried to shorten her sentence by seeking a pardon from President Donald Trump — whom she had once mocked on social media as a “soulless ginger orangutan” — and by arguing she had health conditions that made her more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Her sister said last July that Winner tested positive for the coronavirus but didn’t show symptoms.

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