Former Air Force senior airman Reality Winner served over four years in federal prison for leaking documents about Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to the press. Where is Winner now?
Winner is out of prison and ready to tell her story. She will appear on the CBS program 60 Minutes on Dec. 5 in her first television interview since she was released from prison in June.
Reality Winner says she pledged to serve Americans.
In the interview, Winner tells 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley that she leaked the classified documents to the media because she pledged to serve the American people.
“I knew it was secret. But I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people. And at that point in time, it felt like they were being led astray," Winner told Pelley in an excerpt of the interview that aired on Dec. 3 on CBS Mornings.
Winner came across the NSA (National Security Agency) documents when she was working with top security clearance for military contractor Pluribus International Corporation. She started working at the company after serving six years in the Air Force, where she was honored with the Air Force Commendation Medal.
The NSA report included information on how Russian hackers accessed voter registration rolls in the U.S. with an email phishing operation. Winner mailed the report anonymously to the news website The Intercept.
She was arrested on June 2, 2017, three days before The Intercept printed its June 5 article about the report. Winner's printer use allegedly tipped investigators off that she was the anonymous source of the leak, Vice.com reported.
Winner was convicted under the Espionage Act.
Although Winner originally pleaded “not guilty” after her bail was denied twice, she changed her plea to guilty of felony transmission of national defense information.
On August 23, 2018, Winner was convicted under the Espionage Act and sentenced to five years and three months in prison. It was reportedly the longest sentence ever given to a civilian for leaking information to the media.
Despite support from then-President Donald Trump and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Winner remained in prison for over four years. During her incarceration, she even battled COVID-19.
Winner was released from prison in June 2021. Her attorney, Alison Grinter Allen, stated on Twitter that Winner’s release was “not a product of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather the time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”
What is Reality Winner’s birth name?
Believe it or not, Winner’s birth name isn't an alias. The name on her birth certificate is actually Reality Leigh Winner. She was born in Texas on Dec. 4, 1991, to Billie and Ronald Winner.
In a 2017 interview with the Daily Mail, Winner’s stepfather Gary Davis said her name “Reality” was the idea of her late father, Ronald Winner.
“He always wanted to have a 'Real Winner' so he named her Reality Leigh Winner,” Davis told the Daily Mail. “The plan was to call her Leigh because Reality is kind of a strange name, but everyone who knew her just loved the name Reality, and it stuck with her.”
Coincidentally, the upcoming 60 Minutes interview happens a day after Winner turns 30.
What is Reality Winner’s net worth?
There isn’t very much information available on Winner’s net worth. The website Famous Birthdays puts her net worth at about $1.5 million.