The Clinton precedent will be tested this week.
A lawyer representing a Navy sailor facing more than six years in prison for mishandling classified material plans to request probation at Friday’s sentencing, citing the lenience shown for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her secret email setup, according to reports.
In addition, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cited the Clinton precedent Tuesday in arguing that his publication should not be prosecuted for distributing classified information.
Lawyer Barry Pollack urged in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, shared by WikiLeaks through its official Twitter account, that the Justice Department abandon the probe launched against WikiLeaks and its founder after the website began publishing classified U.S. government documents in 2010.
“As Mr. Assange’s criminal defense counsel in the United States, I have repeatedly sought information from the Department of Justice regarding this now nearly six-year-old investigation,” Mr. Pollack wrote, noting that in that same span, the Justice Department opened and closed a criminal investigation focused on Mrs. Clinton and her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
FBI Director James B. Comey ultimately announced last month that investigators determined Mrs. Clinton and her colleagues acted “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” but not intentionally.
“Wikileaks’ intent was lawful. It was not to aid enemies of the United States or to obstruct justice; it was to inform the public about matters of great public interest,” Mr. Pollack wrote.
“Under the circumstances, there is no legitimate basis for continuing the Department’s lengthy criminal investigation of Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks,” he added. “Doing so chills the newsgathering and reporting of WikiLeaks and other media organizations, improperly allows the Department to evade its responsibility to disclose information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act premised on the open investigation and has resulted in what the United Nations has deemed to be the unlawful detention of Mr. Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than four years.”
Mr. Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish prosecutors over a 2010 sexual assault accusation, but he fled to that embassy over his stated fears that efforts to question him in Stockholm would lead to his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial for charges related to his website.
In the other case, Petty Officer 1st Class Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in May to felony charges for taking six photographs of a submarine’s propulsion system that he knew was classified information.
He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful retention of national defense information and one count of obstruction of justice for using his cellphone to take the snapshots in the engine room on the nuclear submarine USS Alexandria, where he worked as a mechanic, then attempted to destroy evidence when he learned an investigation had been launched.
His attorney, Derrick Hogan, argued in a court filing that Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, was excused for a more serious offense of keeping 110 classified emails on her private server in her home.
He will cite the precedent created when Ms. Lynch decided not to charge Mrs. Clinton based on the recommendation of Mr. Comey, who said Mrs. Clinton lacked “intent” when mishandling the classified information.
“It will be unjust and unfair for Mr. Saucier to receive any sentence other than probation for a crime those more powerful than him will likely avoid,” he said in the court filing first reported by Politico.
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