AUGUSTA, Ga. - A federal judge has denied bond to a Georgia woman accused of leaking a classified document to a news organization.
Reality Leigh Winner, 25, of Augusta, Georgia, appeared before Magistrate Judge Brian K. Epps Thursday afternoon. Wednesday, a U.S. District Court grand jury indicted Winner with a single count of illegally retaining and transmitting national defense information.
During Thursday’s hearing, the prosecution laid out new information they called “disconcerting” and “frightening.” Some of the information presented included a comment written in a notebook, the prosecution said was seized from Winner’s Augusta home that stated: “I want to burn down the White House.”
Winner’s parents and a friend testified Thursday, talking about Winner as a caring, loving person, but the prosecution painted a different picture.
The judge expressed concern for Winner’s fascination with the Middle East, referring to the notebook. The lead prosecutor said Winner’s notebook contained names that they considered alarming, like Osama Bin Laden and a former Taliban leader, among others.
During the three-hour hearing, the prosecution also presented information dating back to Winner’s time in the Air Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Solari said Winner once searched on a work computer whether or not a flash drive could be detected if inserted into a security clearance computer. Solari said Winner inserted a flash drive later that day. Judge Epps expressed concern about not knowing where that thumb drive is and what may be on it.
The prosecution team also said that during a jailhouse call, Winner said to her mother “Those documents, I screwed up.” Prosecutors said this was troubling because they only know of the one document allegedly leaked, but Winners referred to “documents.”
FBI agents raided Winner’s Augusta home on Saturday searching for evidence connected to their investigation. She was eventually arrested.
A spokesperson for the FBI said Winner was working as a government contractor last month when she copied a classified intelligence report containing top secret information. Investigators said she then mailed that classified material to a reporter.
The charge against Winner carries a potential prison sentence of up to 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
Winner’s next court hearing date has not yet been released.