Ex-NSA contractor seeks prison release because of virus

FILE - This June 2017 file photo released by the Lincoln County, Ga., Sheriff's Office, shows Reality Winner. Winner, of Georgia, who mailed a secret U.S. report to a news organization faces the "longest sentence" ever behind bars for a federal crime involving leaks to the news media, prosecutors said in a court filing. Former National Security Agency contractor Winner, 26, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23, 2018, by a U.S. District Court judge in Augusta. (Lincoln County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Posted at 12:38 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 12:38:57-04

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- A former National Security Agency contractor sentenced to federal prison for leaking classified government information is asking for a compassionate release due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reality Leigh Winner has preexisting conditions that make her more susceptible to being infected with COVID-19, defense attorney Joe Whitley said in a motion filed Friday in federal court in Augusta, Georgia, the Augusta Chronicle reported.

The motion says Winner has a history of respiratory illness and an eating disorder. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, but also milder cases of pneumonia that sometimes requires hospitalization.

Winner, 28, is serving a sentence of five years and three months at Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, for a single count of transmitting national security information when she worked at a National Security Agency office in Georgia.

The prison is a "petri dish" for the new coronavirus that's run out of hand sanitizer and has no way to carry out proper social distancing or self-isolation, Whitley stated.

The Bureau of Prison said two inmates at the prison tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Chronicle reported.

Earlier this year, Winner sought clemency from President Donald Trump. Her attorney, Alison Grinter Allen, announced in February an application with the Justice Department for early release that included about 4,500 letters of support.