Connect with us


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge



Wikileaks founder Julian Assange expected to plead guilty to felony charge

Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks, has reached a tentative deal to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, according to court filings.

The plea deal likely ends a long-running legal saga and a transatlantic tug-of-war that pitted national security against press freedom.

He is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced on Wednesday in the Northern Mariana Islands, according to a letter filed by the Justice Department in the remote U.S. jurisdiction Monday evening. He will then return to his home country of Australia, the letter says, indicating he will be sentenced to the 62 months he has already spent behind bars.

A criminal information filed alongside the letter says Assange “knowingly and unlawfully conspired” to “receive and obtain documents … connected with the national defense” and “communicate” that information to persons not entitled to receive them.”

Assange, whose snow-white hair became recognizable worldwide, was a polarizing figure. Supporters saw him as a courageous journalist whistleblower of government misdeeds, but his detractors saw a pompous self-promoter interested primarily in fame and oblivious to the harm his leaks might cause.

He burst into the American public consciousness in the 2010s, when WikiLeaks began publishing a series of bombshell disclosures. They included hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. military documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of confidential diplomatic cables that included candid and sometimes unflattering assessments by U.S. diplomats of counterparts overseas — including foreign heads of state whose help was needed to counter terrorism.

He famously in 2016 published emails that Russian government hackers had stolen from Democratic Party servers and that U.S. authorities assessed were leaked by Moscow in an effort to disrupt the presidential election. He was not charged in connection with those documents.

Assange had eluded authorities for years by holing up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. He arrived in 2012 on the run from Swedish authorities, who were investigating him for sexual assault. That case was ultimately dropped, but in 2018 U.S. officials indicted Assange under seal for computer hacking. Ecuador expelled Assange from the embassy the following year, accusing him of violating the terms of his asylum, and he was immediately arrested by British authorities on the U.S. charge.

Extradition efforts began soon after. But Assange’s attorneys argued that he would kill himself if ordered to face trial in the United States.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.

Continue Reading