An indictment is reportedly being prepared against Julian Assange, the controversial founder behind WikiLeaks, according to a new report from the Washington Post.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer filed a recently unsealed indictment against 29-year-old Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, who is charged in an unrelated sex crimes case. However, a court error led to Assange’s name being used in the filing, telling one judge that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” The charges would remain sealed until Assange “is arrested,” Dwyer also wrote.
Dwyer is also handling a case connected to WikiLeaks, and the Post confirmed with anonymous sources that Dwyer’s disclosure “was true, but unintentional.” It remains unclear what charges Assange faces.
“The complaint, supporting affidavit, and arrest warrant, as well as this motion and the proposed order, would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” the filing states, according to the New York Times.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia has refused to confirm or deny if Assange faces charges, but instead stressed that Assange’s name appeared in error.
“The court filing was made in error,” office spokesperson Joshua Stueve told the Post. “That was not the intended name for this filing.”
WikiLeaks, on the other hand, blames an “apparent cut-and-paste error” for the accidental reveal.
SCOOP: US Department of Justice "accidentally" reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks' publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia. https://t.co/wrjlAbXk5Z pic.twitter.com/4UlB0c1SAX
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 16, 2018
The error was first noticed by Seamus Hughes, George Washington University’s deputy director for the Program on Extremism. Hughes joked that the Eastern District of Virginia “appears to have Assange on the mind when filing motions to seal” and “used his name” erroneously.
“To be clear, seems Freudian, it’s for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him,” Hughes explained.
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel behind the Russia investigation, is reportedly “exploring” WikiLeaks’ role in publishing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel’s investigation is currently focusing on Trump associate Roger Stone, his connections to WikiLeaks, and whether Stone had advanced knowledge about the hacked emails.
Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack has since caused the alleged indictment against Assange “troubling,” stressing that the charges could impact how information and news reports are handled in the near future.
“The news that criminal charges have apparently been filed against Mr. Assange is even more troubling than the haphazard manner in which that information has been revealed,” Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack told the Times. “The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”