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Court documents relating to a sex crimes case were unsealed in September. The three-page filing lists Julian Assange in two places even though he is not the defendant in the case.
At one point the brief reads, “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.”
Further on it says, “[The charges would] need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”
The reason that he is mentioned in someone else’s court documents is inexplicable. The filing was reportedly drafted by US Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer. The Washington Post claims that anonymous sources close to the case confirm that what the documents say about Assange are correct, but were unintentionally disclosed.
“The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”
“The court filing was made in error,” said US Attorney’s Office spokesperson Joshua Stueve. “That was not the intended name for this filing.”
The document was filed back in August in the Eastern District of Virginia. In September it was unsealed, and nobody seemed to notice the error until George Washington University faculty member Seamus Hughes happened to see the anomalous wording.
He thinks it amounts to nothing more than a “Freudian" slip.
“To be clear, seems Freudian, it’s for a different completely unrelated case, every other page is not related to him, EDVA just appears to have assange on the mind when filing motions to seal and used his name,” said Hughes.
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 ([USER=419184]@Wikileaks[/USER]) November 16, 2018
WikiLeaks tweeted that it looks like a “copy-and-paste” error.
Mike Levine speculates that the US Attorney’s office may have been using a document meant for Assange as a template for another case and failed to replace his name in a couple of parts.
Guys, this is truly an amazing find by @SeamusHughes. My hypothesis is: prosecutors used a filing in an Assange-related case as a template for a filing in this case, but forgot to change the one paragraph. If true, it means sealed charges have been filed against Julian Assange. https://t.co/BWkC8Mfz83— Mike Levine (@MLevineReports) November 16, 2018
Regardless of how his name wound up on the filing, Assange’s attorney Barry Pollack doesn’t like the look of it one way or the other.
“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,” Pollack told The New York Times. “The government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”
While the US Attorney's Office did acknowledge the error, it did not confirm that charges against Assange were forthcoming. The FBI also declined comment.
So at this point, all we have is conjecture and anonymous sources. It would be wise to take the news with a dose of skepticism until something official is announced.