1 year later: Channel 2 revisits NSA leaker case

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Reality Winner’s home in Augusta is no longer a minimalist yoga haven.

There’s a TV in the living room, baby pictures framed around an open space and other signs that the house is now home to a family.

It’s a rental property for a new family friend and a place for the alleged National Security Agency leaker’s mother to stay whenever she makes one of her frequent treks from Texas to Georgia.

On Monday, it’s also the shooting location for a German-American documentary team that is following Winner’s mother.

The team is working on funding to support a project chronicling the family’s life, as calls from national news outlets have nearly ceased.

“I don’t know why her story is not newsworthy,” said Billie Winner-Davis, Reality’s mother.


Winner-Davis sits on the same coach she sat on beside her husband a year ago.

In an interview with Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr, she admits she thought things would be different today.

She thought she’d have her daughter out on bond as she awaits a federal espionage trial.

“You, in particular," she said to Carr, recalling a year-old interview, “you just said, ‘So what if they don’t let her out?' I just remember that so well, like, ‘My Gosh, well, that’s unthinkable. Why wouldn’t they?'"

“It never crossed my mind that she would not be let out of jail that day,” Winner-Davis said.

A year later, Winner is still in the Lincoln County jail, 60 miles from her house.

She’s still considered a flight risk and she still awaits her trial, which will be centered on the accusation that she admitted to leaking a classified document tied to Russian election interference.

And according to her mother, the 27-year-old has already been warned by her legal team that the government plans to push for the maximum 10-year sentence should she be found guilty of espionage.
But before they get to all that, there are strong feelings about multiple bond denials.

“She’s not a danger,” Winner-Davis said. “She’s not a flight risk. She doesn’t deserve this. She doesn’t see an end. She doesn’t see an end to this.”

Winner-Davis, who retired from a state job to support her daughter during the case, is only in town for a few days.

It’s not just for the standard 30 minute-limit jailhouse visit through glass. It’s also because, on Sunday night, she held a vigil outside the Lincoln County jail, marking Winner’s 365th day behind bars without bond.

Now she almost dreads her pending return to Texas.

“It’s hard knowing I have to go home tomorrow. It always feels like I’m abandoning her again. She’s up here with no one," Winner-Davis said. “It’s hard. “I’m sorry.”


Winner is the first person to be tried under the Trump Administration for leaking classified information. The documents she leaked are tied to Russia’s influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Long before there was a Mueller probe, long before the Russia investigation consumed the news cycle, and long before there was a Senate Intel Committee report detailing Russian election interference, there was Reality Winner.

The now-27-year-old Air Force intelligence veteran was a government contractor at Fort Gordon, where the documents were housed before being sent to the online media outlet, The Intercept, in May 2018.

According to legal analysts and defense motion filings, what followed is unprecedented.

In June of 2017, Winner came home from the grocery store and was met by federal agents. They had traced the leak to her house in Augusta.

It was there, inside the home, federal government said that Winner admitted to having leaked the documents. Transcripts of the admission were detailed in court and released in pretrial motions.

But because she wasn’t read her Miranda Rights during the interrogation, Winner’s defense has asked the court to disregard the admission.

The judge hasn’t ruled on that yet.

The defense team also tried to get the court to take a look at a Comey memo, describing a hard stance against leakers under the Trump administration.

It also tried to get the court to look at others facing espionage cases or people tied to Russian election interference concerns who have spent no pretrial time behind bars.

Paul Manafort , a Former Trump campaign chairman, comes to mind for Winner-Davis. She recalls him making headlines again in his political operative case tied to the  Russia investigation.

Manafort, who pleaded not guilty to money laundering and tax fraud charges, was granted holiday house arrest at the end of 2017, while Winner was finally allowed to receive a fruit basket delivery at the county jail.

“But he gets to go to the Hamptons with his family and travel. And we were celebrating that you know, Reality was given a banana,” Winner-Davis said.

Winner-Davis is convinced her daughter’s bond denial is due to the nature of the documents she’s accused of leaking.

“Because it didn’t go along with what the messaging was being told at that time from our administration,” she said.

“She is being used as an example,” Winner-Davis said. “They are trying to throw her away. They are trying to bury her.”

It’s unclear whether both sides will be prepared to head to court in October, the latest scheduled trial date for Winner.

Regardless of the outcome, her mother imagines Winner running a fitness studio and living a normal life sooner rather than later.

“She will never be alone,” Winner-Davis said. “I promise her that.”