Judge refuses to force government to reveal if Julian Assange has been charged

Judge refuses to force government to reveal if Julian Assange has been charged
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A federal district court judge ruled on Wednesday that the government does not have to reveal if criminal charges have been secretly filed against WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, whose organization published online emails Russians stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Judge Leonie Brinkema, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, denied the request brought by the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press without prejudice. 

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Brinkema acknowledged both the need for the government to be able to investigate criminal activity and successfully bring to justice those charged with criminal conduct, and the public's right to access judicial records and proceedings.

But until there are certain disclosure that charges have in fact been filed, she called the committee's claims that it has a common law and First Amendment right to see the documents premature. 

“To hold otherwise would mean that any member of the public or press-by demanding access to judicial records based on little more than speculation-could effectively force the Government to admit or deny that charges had been filed,” she said. 

“Permitting such fishing expeditions would require courts to sort through endless factual permutations giving rise to varying degrees of uncertainty.”

Speculation that Assange was facing charges under seal sparked last year when a court filing in an unrelated case mentioned the WikiLeaks founder by name. One of the Justice Department attorneys working on the separate court case had also been working on a WikiLeaks case.
 
Legal experts told The Hill at the time that accidental mention is a sign that a case against Assange is at least in the works, if not already filed under seal.
 
The Wall Street Journal also reported last year that federal prosecutors are preparing to bring charges against Assange.

The Reporter's Committee said in their request that its attorney contacted Assange's attorney via e-mail to seek consent for the records to be unsealed.