Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor who pleaded guilty to leaking classified intelligence to a media outlet, has been sentenced to more than five years in prison.
On Thursday, a federal judge in Georgia approved a plea deal that called for five years and three months in prison along with three years of supervision after release.
Winner, 26, also will have to complete 100 hours of community service once she is released.
The Air Force veteran is the first person to be prosecuted by the Trump administration for leaking to the press; the Obama administration prosecuted eight leakers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous administrations combined.
In a court filing earlier this month, prosecutors said the recommended 63-month sentence would be “the longest sentence served by a federal defendant for an unauthorized disclosure to the media.”
It’s more than twice as long as the sentence for a former CIA officer who disclosed the name of a covert officer to the press, and more than three times as long as the sentence for an FBI translator who leaked wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy to a blogger.
In justifying the sentence, federal prosecutors emphasized that Winner acted “willfully” and was always aware the report she leaked was classified as top secret. They said comparing her case to other leaking cases is “of little utility” because the details of such cases are often classified.
Winner, who worked for private contractor Pluribus International, sent classified documents to the online news site The Intercept detailing an attempt by Russian military intelligence to attack U.S. elections, specifically by trying to “phish” more than 100 local election officials.
After The Intercept published its report, NPR’s Pam Fessler has reported, “State election officials express[ed] anger that they learned about the cyberattack from the news media, and not from federal authorities.”
Winner was caught after The Intercept apparently showed officials a copy of the document, NPR’s Martin Kaste has reported. That allowed the government to identify that it had been printed out and folded. Ultimately, they used “microdots” on the printout to identify the exact printer where the document was created. Authorities also found email records showing contact between Winner and the news outlet.
Winner pleaded guilty in June, after she spent more than a year in jail without bond.
The Associated Press reports:
“Her attorneys had argued for Winner to be released on bond, noting she had no criminal record and had served honorably in the military. The judge sided with prosecutors who said Winner posed a potential flight risk and may have stolen other classified documents.
“Prosecutors also used Winner’s own words against her, including a Facebook chat in which Winner once wrote to her sister: “Look, I only say I hate America like 3 times a day.”
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