On February 27, 2018, a Suppression Hearing was held in the decision making time period before Reality Winner’s actual trial in which she is being charged under the Espionage Act. This was an important hearing because Magistrate Brian Epps will decide whether or not Reality’s confession will be able to be submitted as evidence against her in court.
Magistrate Epps has since asked both the prosecution & defense to submit statements of their arguments and then he will make his decision. This, ultimately, will push back Reality’s trial that is scheduled for this month.
The reason this is so important is because of what happened the day Reality Winner was interrogated by two male FBI agents. This was set up as a sting operation from the beginning. The lead agent said he briefed his team about the case a half mile away from Reality’s apartment, in a school parking lot. Reality was not arrested by the FBI agents, she was arrested by the local police department.
Reality cooperated with the FBI agents, while they blocked the only exit in the tiny, unfinished bedroom in the back of her apartment during the questioning. While a group of nine armed, male FBI agents ransacked her apartment with their search warrant, she even asked if she could tend to her pets’ needs, instead of walking around freely in her own home. And when Reality asked the two agents interrogating her if she was being arrested, knowing there was also a search warrant for her person, but seeing no female agent during the entire exchange, her question went unanswered.
Instead, she was told that she would benefit from cooperating, which she thought she was doing. And, that they would feel much better knowing they didn’t have a serious issue if she was just frustrated with her job. The same tactics that you see on television when a suspect is being interviewed & arrested; the coerciveness, the pressuring, the “we know you did it so you better tell us now.”
There were seven cars outside of Reality’s small Augusta home, all blocking in her vehicle. She had handed over her keys and her cell phone, and even showed the armed agents how to gain access into her phone. None of this made Reality feel as though this was a voluntary interview. She felt that she was being arrested, which she ended up foreshadowing correctly.
This wasn’t Winner’s first pre-trial hearing either. She has been denied pretrial bond multiple times over the course of the last 8 months. And while Winner has gained a lot of support online, her mother & step father, Billie Winners-Davis & Gary Davis, have been the only supporters of Winner to show up at those hearings.
This time was different though. Because of all the support that Winner has gained online, her parents wouldn’t be the only ones in the courtroom this time. Supporters from Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York, came to show Winner and her parents that they are not alone.
My husband, Ryan, & I were two of those supporters. Back in January, there was a call to action online for Reality Winner supporters and I worked with other supporters to try to fill the courtroom. Donations came in to help get supporters to the hearing, and Ryan & I offered to carpool anyone needing a ride. We even picked up a fellow supporter in Philadelphia on our way down to Augusta, GA from upstate NY.
Ryan & I started our trip on Monday, February 26, 2018. We packed our bags & I made a hash tag: #NY2GA4Reality. I wrote the hash tag on my car windows and set the GPS for our 15 hour drive. I made my Twitter update so people could follow our drive down using the hash tag and we were off. We were going to be there for Reality and her parents. We wanted them to know there were people out there like us.
The goal of filling the court room worked. There were so many supporters there that, because of circumstances beyond our control, Ryan & I ended up not being able to get into the court room for the actual hearing. But that was okay. There were already many reporters in there covering the hearing, and Winner’s parents knew we were there. It allowed us to get a different perspective. One that not many could get. And here’s what happened…
The supporter that we picked up in Philadelphia also needed a ride to the hearing. She is handicapped, being diagnosed with MS, and so, she doesn’t drive. When we got to the court house, we were running late because, while we were entering federal property, it wasn’t very handicapped accessible.
The Philly supporter didn’t bring a handicap car tag, and Ryan & I aren’t handicapped, so we had to originally park the equivalent of a few blocks away from the Federal Court House. By the time we made it to the entry gate, our supporter was worn out. And who could blame her? The entry gate guard was very nice and radioed ahead to have another guard meet us with a wheel chair so I could push her the rest of the way. We got to the court house and all we saw were steps, there was no ramp. And by this time, the hearing was just beginning.
Ryan went out to see if he could find a closer parking spot while we were making our way to the court house steps. The original guard, at the entrance, caught Ryan’s attention and directed him to another guard that was waiting for him so he could park next to the court house, on the street, by the side entrance. After he parked our car, complete with #NY2GA4Reality written on two of the windows, next to the Federal Court House, Ryan met us inside at the metal detectors.
The Federal Court Security Officers were very polite to the three of us. We were informed that the court room was full and that we wouldn’t be able to get in. They set us up in Court Room 2, on the second floor, and told us that we would be able to listen to the hearing from there. However, the audio technician was having some difficulty. We had sat in the second floor court room for about ten minutes, listening to dead air.
At 10:26 AM we were informed by the head Court Security Officer that they would take us down to the first floor and might be able to get us into Reality’s hearing when Magistrate Epps decided to “adjourn for a break.” We were brought down to the waiting area outside of Court Room 1 and proceeded to wait.
Because of the wheelchair that the officers had provided for the Philly supporter, it was decided that they could sneak her in without disrupting the hearing. Ryan and I were told that we would have to wait for an actual break, though, because they were going to have to move two Federal Marshalls to different seats to fit us in. That’s when I decided to ask the head Court Security Officer, “In an effort to save you trouble in fitting us in, could I instead have permission to bring my phone to the Press Barrier? Since we can’t bring phones or cameras inside the building, your guards won’t let me past the outside gate with it.” And that’s how I gained access to the Press Corral without having any Press Credentials.
While the lack of handicap accessible entrances on Federal Property did surprise me, I will say that the guards did do a good job of accommodating us. After a brief lunch break, they even watched for our car to pull up in the same spot, brought the wheelchair out to us, and wheeled the Philly supporter in through the back door. The same back door that Reality was led through.
However, that’s where the accommodation stopped for my husband and I. Ryan was then treated, by the guards, as the Philly supporter’s driver. And I was treated as a (novice) member of the press. We were both scolded for unknowingly doing something wrong, as well. Ryan, for getting too close to the back gate, while talking on his cell phone and pacing the sidewalk. Yes, he was on the public sidewalk. And I was scolded for recording, on my phone, in front of a federal building. (Even though the few local news stations that were there had video cameras pointed directly at the building.) I asked if there was somewhere I could find a list of rules since this was my first Press Corral and I was told, “I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest basic version. You can be here. That’s it. No where else.” I happily obliged, though, as I knew it was a favor in the first place to even be in the corral.
All in all, while our trip didn’t technically go as expected, it did turn out good. Reality, Billie, and Gary had much more support than they had at past hearings. Ryan and I were able to meet some fantastic people that we had only spoken to online. And I was able to get many photos, more on a personal level than just news snapshots, that will help in gaining more support for Reality Winner. Ryan and I have even discussed going back down for Part 2 of #NY2GA4Reality, but I think next time we may fly.
*As many of you know, but some of you may not know, I’ve been speaking out as an advocate & supporter for Reality Winner since I learned of her case in December 2017. Her story has largely been ignored by the main stream media (MSM) and the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice are doing a good job of silencing her.*
*I’m thinking of posting a separate blog entitled #NY2GA4Reality Photos (or something of the sort) very soon. If I do, I’ll be sure to add descriptions so you can follow it, sort of like a story board. But until then, you can follow me on Twitter ( @Lizseeds0311 ) and check out #NY2GA4Reality as well as #FreeRealityWinner & #Justice4Reality *
*I’m also working on a project for Reality called Messages To Reality. I would like to collect any positive messages that anyone has for her and I will be creating a couple projects in different medias with them. That way, I can mail her any hard copies and she will have a digital gift when she gets out. You can either send me your messages for Reality in a short video, or you can type it out. Then you can either tweet it out using the hash tag #Message2Reality or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org*