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Air Force vet Reality Winner released from prison early after leaking classified NSA docs

Reality Winner, who pleaded guilty in June to leaking top-secret government documents about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, arrives at the federal courthouse where she was sentenced in a federal court on Aug. 23, 2018 in Augusta, Ga. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
June 14, 2021

Reality Winner, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was sentenced to more than five years in prison for leaking classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents while working as a contractor for the agency, was released from federal prison on Monday.

Winner’s attorney, Alison Grinter Allen, announced her client’s release in a statement posted to Twitter. “I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison. She is still in custody in the residential reentry process, but we are relieved and hopeful.”

“Reality and her family have asked for privacy during the transition process as they work to heal the trauma of incarceration and build back the years lost. Her release is not a product of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated,” Allen’s statement read. “Reality is still barred from public statements or appearances, and any inquiries can be handled through my office.”

Winner, 29, was sentenced in 2018 to more than five years in prison after she pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to The Intercept about Russia’s attempts to hack the 2016 presidential election. Her sentence also included more than three years of supervised release following her prison term.

Winner had been sentenced to serve her prison term at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, a federal prison for all security levels for female inmates with special medical and mental health needs.

Allen said Winner earned her early release due to good behavior.

Winner was among the first leakers punished during President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Winner was reportedly a Bernie Sanders supporter, who often criticized President Donald Trump and shared support for Black Lives Matter. On her Twitter account, @Reezlie, Winner went after Trump over his stance on refugees, said to “burn crosses, not flags,” and tweeted at rap star Kanye West that he should “make a shirt that says, ‘being white is terrorism.’”

Winner’s case became a rallying issue for activists who shared #FreeRealityWinner. The hashtag and the effort to free Winner garnered support from several high profile individuals, including Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics under the Obama administration; Justin Amash, a former Republican Michigan congressman, and Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s ex-attorney.

Trump did not commute Winner’s sentence while he was in office, but NBC reported in 2018 he said her punishment was “so unfair” and tweeted “Gee, this is ‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did,” in reference to Clinton’s handling of classified materials on a home email server.