Reality Winner gets record-setting sentence for leaking secret U.S. report

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Reality Winner, the Georgia woman who admitted to leaking classified documents about the Russians and the presidential election, will spend the next five and a half years in prison

This is the longest sentenced ever imposed on someone convicted of leaking information to the press.

Channel 2 Action News was the first TV station to talk with Winner's parents shortly after her arrest and her guilty plea.

They told us their daughter is not a traitor.

Winner was sentenced in a federal courtroom in August Thursday morning. The judge slapped her with 63 months in prison.

She had pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents detailing Russian attempts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.

Winner's attorneys told Channel 2's Richard Elliot that they tried to focus on their client, not the politics surrounding her.


“Our main focus from the very beginning was just to protect Reality,” attorney Titus Nichols said.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr was the first reporter to speak with Winner's parents, just days after her June 2017 arrest.

“There’s so many ugly things out there. She doesn’t deserve that. I just want her to be treated fairly,” mother Billie Winner-Davis said at that time.

We spoke to them again after the former NSA contractor pleaded guilty to espionage.

In court Thursday, Winner apologized and admitted what she did was wrong.

Despite the plea, her mother doesn’t want history to view her daughter as a traitor.

“I don’t want her name to go down as a traitor. Don’t want her to go down in history as someone who hurt or betrayed her country or that she’s an enemy of the state and that’s really what the espionage is,” Winner-Davis said.

Winner faced a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.


Winner grew up in Kingsville, Texas, and enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school.
Her parents have said she became a linguist, speaking Arabic and Farsi, and spent four years assigned to the NSA at Fort Mead, Maryland.

During that time, Winner provided real-time translation to Americans conducting field missions.

After leaving the military, Winner moved to Augusta to become a civilian contractor for the NSA, which has operated a $286 million complex in the Georgia city since 2012.

Court records say Winner translated documents from Farsi to English for the agency.

Winner confessed to leaking the classified report when FBI agents questioned her at her home in June 2017. Winner said she was frustrated at work and had filed complaints "about them having Fox News on."

Prosecutors later made the 77-page transcript of Winner's FBI interview part of the court file in her case.

Any details about the document she leaked and the organization she mailed it to were redacted. But the rest of her confession to FBI agents became public.

"Yeah, I screwed up royally," Winner told the agents before she was arrested.