With today’s hustle & bustle of our busy lives, many people don’t take the time, or don’t have the time, to really look into things that don’t directly effect them. Because of that, many people scan the newspaper in the morning, getting the gist of what’s going on, but not knowing the particulars of its contents, let alone in its entirety. If there were a list of articles, topics & cases most widely known for a name, yet most widely unknown in their specifics, the case of Reality Winner would probably be right up there in the top 10.
Reality Winner has an unusual name, and one that many have focused on. But yet what’s not known is that she is a young US Air Force veteran, and ex NSA contractor. She is the whistleblower, or truth teller, that is charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly releasing a document to the online media outlet, The Intercept, that helped show that Russia was hacking into our US election support companies.
The last sentence of that paragraph alone would have had people up in arms, in the not so distant past. If an announcement was made that Russia was, and has been for years, meddling in our elections, and continues to do so, many people would have taken to the streets. But, with so much going on every damned day, it’s unknown whether we are becoming desensitized to the corruption in our government (on all sides,) or if people really just don’t care. Or maybe, even still, they have a hard time trying to filter through all the bullsh*t and end up buying into it.
This piece is meant to take a second and explain why Reality Winner has such devoted supporters. The thing is, there is a visible division in our country. And unfortunately, that divide is causing people that normally would be supporters of Winner to cut themselves off from the truth about what is going on with her case. From my personal experience, to be blunt, most people that are Trump supporters are not going to want to support her because she’s alleged to have helped expose Russian hacking, to which some have said they don’t believe, or, because they feel any form of leaking should be penalized as treason.
Trump supporters should check into her case, though, because her supporters aren’t there based only on their political stance, whether they are resisting Donald Trump, or not. And her supporters aren’t trying to claim her innocence either. (Although now that the main stream media has reported that Russia did in fact hack, and there are thirteen Russian indictments, one should wonder why the document Winner is accused of releasing is still considered classified.) Her supporters are saying, however, that her treatment has been unfair, and unjust, throughout the past nine months.
Donald Trump himself said in a tweet, when speaking of Rob Porter’s departure over allegations that he abused his past wives, that every American should be seen as innocent until proven guilt, and that every American deserves their right to a fair trial and due process. Winner’s supporters agree. Yes, every American does deserve that. Every US Air Force veteran and every NSA contractor, also deserve that. So why isn’t Winner receiving any of that?
*Miranda Warning aka Rights*
To begin with, Winner was not read her Miranda Rights on the day she was arrested. That day, a group of eleven male FBI agents, nine of them armed, were briefed on Winner a half mile away from her home, in a school parking lot, before showing up at her home. When they arrived they surrounded her vehicle with seven of their vehicles. A photo of Winner’s surrounded vehicle was shown in court the day of her suppression hearing. There was no moving her vehicle once the FBI had arrived. The FBI agents have admitted to not reading Winner her Miranda Rights, but say that is because she wasn’t being detained.
However, the actions during the execution of the search warrants painted a different picture. To Winner, none of this felt voluntary. The agents had a warrant for her home, her car, and her person. But one thing was missing, a female agent, or another female federal employee. It is a well known fact, that females search females and males search males. Winner knew this, and already being outnumbered, eleven to one, by men, she understood that she was not free to leave and had to stay there and wait to be searched when a female arrived. That didn’t happen though. The person search didn’t happen until Winner arrived at the county jail, by then she had been officially taken into custody.
In Winner’s tiny home, the nine armed men ransacked her home searching for anything they could find, and she cooperated. She handed over her cell phone and showed them how to obtain access to it, and directly handed them her car keys. Anything they needed help with or had a question about, she was there for.
She did as she was told. Winner essentially handed her entire life over to the group of eleven strange men in her house. Being the kind heart that she is, Winner had adopted a of couple pets. She even asked the armed agents permission to get them water and take her dog out to the bathroom. Reality Winner was not moving about freely in her own home. Her every move was being watched, and analyzed. She even had to ask permission to use her own bathroom.
Then came the interrogation. The two unarmed, male agents had asked if she wanted to be questioned at home or at the station. When she chose her home, they asked about the small unfurnished room in the back. On top of having dealt with anxiety issues for quite some time & anxiety now setting in, Winner told them that she felt it was creepy in that back room. The next thing she knows, she’s standing, back against the wall in that creepy room. Not only was she in that room, but also positioned on the far side, away from the almost shut door, which the two agents were blocking.
Winner, being an intelligent young lady, even pushed aside her anxiety and asked if she was under arrest. She was not told that she would be free to terminate the questioning at any time, so this was an excellent question. But, she did not receive an answer. What she did receive as a response was belittling pressure, disguised as friendly chit chat. The power trip type talk. The, “it would be in your best interest,” talk.
The agents told her that she was the most likely suspect and that they had compelling evidence. They followed that up with stating they knew she had a good career and that she just made a mistake. They even tried to lay a little guilt trip in there for their new “friend” that they would feel much better if she was in fact the culprit because then they would know that they didn’t have such a serious problem.
The agents were already saying she was guilty. Already putting that in her head. Combined with everything else that was going on during this questioning, what reasonable person wouldn’t think they were being detained and held in custody? Who would assume that this was a reasonable voluntary detainment? Like has been stated by others, including Winner’s defense, the FBI wouldn’t have allowed her to take a jaunt down to the convenient store. So how voluntary was this interrogation? Winner was being detained.
We have Miranda Warnings (aka Miranda Rights) for a reason in the United States, and that is because of a violation of the 5th Amendment Rights by police in Pheonix, back in the 1960’s, of a man by the name of Ernesto Miranda. Miranda had confessed to kidnapping and rape charges while in police custody. His lawyers sought to appeal his case after learning during cross examination that Miranda was not told he had a right to an attorney or that he had the right to remain silent, but had signed a confession stating he understood his legal rights. The Supreme Court overturned Miranda’s conviction and applied guidelines as to how detained suspects are informed of their rights.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
So, why wasn’t Reality Winner read her Miranda Rights? Why was she allowed to be a witness against herself? Why was she not told she had a right to an attorney? Why wasn’t she read her rights when seven cars, driven by mostly armed FBI agents, blocked in her car? Why wasn’t she read her rights while she stood against the wall in that creepy, unfurnished back room? Why wasn’t she read her rights when her only exit was a mostly shut door blocked by two FBI agents? Why wasn’t she read her rights when Winner had to ask to use her own bathroom?
*Lincoln County Jail*
Unfortunately, this isn’t where the dicussion of Winner’s treatment ends. Because she resided in Augusta, GA when she allegedly sent the document to The Intercept, her trial is in the 11th Circuit Federal Court in Augusta. She was placed in the Lincoln Country Jail (LCJ) to await her trial. LCJ is a small jail that mostly houses drug related charged inmates and inmates that break parole or probation.
Sometimes it can be hard for Winner to stay positive and keep busy waiting for her trial at LCJ. Her pretrial detention has been sub par, to say the least. Being a vegetarian for two and a half years now, Winner tries to live a vegan lifestyle, but can’t fully give up some things, like honey. Because of the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables available, Winner’s health has declined. Her diet consists mostly of peanut butter, oatmeal, canned vegetables, and potato chips. Winner looks forward to Fried Chicken Sunday because she gets beans and collard greens, but there are days when an entire meal for her consists of a tray filled with peas and corn.
She has been put on antibiotics for skin infections as well, and this is thought to be connected with her poor diet. It’s not known for sure though because she hasn’t gone for her baseline examination yet. So, she tries to stay as healthy as she can, exercising and eating what she can, but she doesn’t get much time outside.
Yard time, at only 30 minutes, is a privilege in LCJ and the only time she can get direct sunlight. There’s no yard time on weekends or holidays, and it has been used against her in the past, until the jail nurse and her legal team stepped in. Having to deal with anxiety behind bars, and getting little to no Vitamin D, the sunlight during yard time is a precious commodity.
Winner is a strong environmentalist and the prosecution has used conversations with her family and friends, meant in jest, as evidence against her. Her mail is withheld, sometimes, seventeen days once, and she has been asked to somehow reduce the mail she receives, as it has created an issue for those that have to go through it all.
There are special protocols for Winner at the jail, since she is the only one staying there under FBI custody. She is the only one that is required to have a visitor’s list and on one particular weekend, the list was misplaced, resulting in a denied visit. During visits, it’s through a piece of glass that she connects with her friends and family, and she, “has had no physical contact with anyone, besides her legal team, since this all started,” as Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, stated in a communication with me.
Winner has been told that if she has any strikes against her while shes in pretrial detention, it will look bad for her case. So, when an inmate got upset with her a few weeks ago and assaulted her, she did not fight back. According to her mom, Reality was struck on the back of the head. The EMS was called and Winner did not require stitches, but she did end up with a gash on the back of her head.
Sadly, that was not the only time Winner has been hurt while in custody. During her transport from the Federal Courthouse back to LCJ, the US Marshals shackle Winner’s feet, and her hands at her hips, reminiscent of a serial killer shuffling out of court. On February 27, 2018, when she was leaving the courthouse in her orange jumpsuit, and everything shackled as normal, Winner missed a stepped. Because her hands were shackled at her hips and her ankles shackled together, Winner was unable to stop herself from falling and no one around her caught her. She landed face first, bruising the side of her face and banging up her knee.
Two weeks later, when she was checked because her knee was still painful, it was discovered that there is a fluid build up under her knee. Since she can’t just schedule and appointment with her doctor and go see him or her, she must wait until arrangements are made. Those arrangements include getting a couple US Marshals to come to LCJ from Augusta, about an hour away, to escort Winner to the doctor right down the road from LCJ.
*Guilty Until Proven Innocent*
Winner is also not allowed to change from her orange jumpsuit for her court dates, even though she is “innocent until proven guilty.” Not only that, but during any court proceedings, only her wrists are unshackled, her ankles stay. And a US Marshal sits in front of her, face to face, during the proceedings. Winner is not allowed to turn around and look into the courtroom at all.
Now, although the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department has a small page off of the main Lincoln County gov.org website, the jail itself does not have it’s own site page. There is as a link to check current inmates though, as well as two sex offender registration links for the county and state. Upon checking the inmate registry, it starts to become clear how hush hush the government wants this case against Winner to be. Whether pre-whistleblowing, or in her orange jumpsuit, photos of Winner have surfaced on the web. That’s why it was so interesting that there’s no photo of her next to her name on the inmate registry. In her picture box, there are only the words, “Due to state law image not available.” Next to that it shows the typical things you would expect to see: name, sex, height, weight, DOB, DOA. Underneath all that, there’s a spot labeled, “Description,” amount a few other small boxes for offense type, the court, etc… The only box that was filled out was the description box. Winner’s description simply states : HOLD FOR MARSHALS.
Since the day that Reality Winner spoke to those FBI agents, her every move, her every word, has been watched, analyzed, and handed over to the government’s prosecution team. From there, the prosecution continues to smear her name to the judge, and publicly, through the little new coverage her case gets.
It is important to note that Winner is not charged with espionage, but she is charged under the Espionage Act. A little background on the Espionage Act is needed to understand why her supporters (and lawyers) oppose this charge. The Espionage Act of 1917 was based on The Defense Act of 1911 originally designed during World War I to prevent anyone from obtaining or delivering information related to national defense to people who were not entitled to have it. Specifically, foreign spies. Aka committing espionage.
It was put together with the best of intentions, but we all know how that saying goes. For the past hundred years, the Espionage Act has been debated and amended, and used to charge whistleblowers that are seeking to help the country they love, not harm it. Sometimes we have to learn when past amendments no longer do anything to justify the treatment of an American truth teller as a political prisoner. The act is outdated and amending it needs to be seriously looked at, or else we need to develop laws that protect our whistleblowers.
The Espionage Act is widely agreed by many experts to be unconstitutionally vague and a violation of the First Amendment of Free Speech. Even though a supreme court had ruled that the Espionage Act does not infringe upon the 1st Amendment back in 1919, it’s constitutionality has been back and forth in court ever sense.
Because of being charged under the Espionage Act, Winner’s defense’s hands are tied. No one is allowed to mention the classified document, even though the public already knows that the information in it is true, that Russia hacked into our election support companies. Even Trump said it looks like Russia hacked us. Furthermore, no one is allowed to mention any new articles or coverage of Reality Winner or the document. This means they cannot argue that the alleged releasing of that document did not have any ill effect on the US citizens.
The government is essentially tying up Winner’s defense at any chance they can get. They will allow public release of their own statements when they say “It’s not criminal, but of interest that she has multiple phones. It’s not criminal, but it is of interest that she knows how to change a sim card. It’s not criminal, but it is of interest that she if multilingual.”
Yet there has been no public statement by Winner. US Marshals and Federal Court Officers keep Winner at a distance as she enters and exits the back entrance to the Federal Court Building. And anything she would want to say, could be held against her in court by the prosecution. But that didn’t stop her from flashing her supporters a peace sign as she sat in the back of the transport car, right after she had sustained the face and knee injury from falling while she was shackled.
So, back at Lincoln County Jail, Winner sits, awaiting trial. She tried to get out on pretrial bond so that she could prepare for the trial, but she was denied. Winner continued to try to cooperate with everyone. The judge, the government’s prosecution team. She offered anything she could think of for them to allow her out of pretrial detention. She offered her passport, which was revoked, and even offered to be under house arrest with an ankle monitor and her mother staying as her custodian. She wan’t a murderer or some other violent offender. She was honorably discharged from the US Airforce, and had no criminal record.
But the government prosecution was latched on and they weren’t letting her go home. They used the fact that she was upset with the government’s lack of response to environmental issues and made a joke in poor taste about burning the White House down. She had recently visited Belize for a weekend in honor of her deceased father, whom had always wanted to go there, so of course, even though Winner’s passport was revoked, the magistrate still considered her a flight risk. Billie Winner Davis, Winner’s mother, and Gary Davis, Winner’s step father, even offered up their 20 acre farm in Texas as collateral for Winner’s bond, but that was also turned down. The judge in the hearing took most of what the government prosecution said at face value though.
After being denied a few times, Winner still sits behind bars. She’s been there for almost 300 days now, doing anything she can to stay positive and keep busy. That is what many of her supporters want you to know. We should all be asking why this type of treatment is happening. Is this okay? Are we in the United States of America, the home of the free and land of the brave? Is this 2018?
If you would like to know more, please visit standwithreality.org
There’s also a call for volunteers with specific skill sets. If you would like to see if you can turn your support into actions please visit standwithreality.org/volunteer
You can also view a short video of Reality supporters reporting back after her suppression trial that was on 2.27.18 here: standwithreality.org/reportback/