Report: Justice Department Considering Plea Deal for Assange

A plea deal could free Assange from prison

Updated on 3/20/24 at 10:15 pm EST

The Justice Department is considering whether to offer WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the opportunity to plead guilty to a reduced charge of mishandling classified information, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The report said DOJ officials and Assange’s legal team have already had preliminary talks on what a plea deal might look like. However, Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange, said he has been given no indication that the department will take a deal.

“It is inappropriate for Mr. Assange’s lawyers to comment while his case is before the UK High Court other than to say we have been given no indication that the Department of Justice intends to resolve the case and the United States is continuing with as much determination as ever to seek his extradition on all 18 charges, exposing him to 175 years in prison,” Pollack said in a statement.

Consortium News reported later in the day that it had previously learned of the talks between the US and Assange’s legal team on a potential deal, but the information was given off the record, so the outlet did not publicize it.

Under the DOJ’s indictment against Assange, he could face up to 175 years in prison under the Espionage Act for exposing US war crimes by publishing classified documents leaked to WikiLeaks by former Army Private Chelsea Manning in 2010.

If Assange is convicted, it would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom since publishing information obtained by a source is a standard journalistic practice, whether classified or not.

The Journal report said that if the DOJ offers a deal for Assange to plead guilty to a lesser charge of mishandling classified information, it would be a misdemeanor, and he could potentially enter the plea remotely without going to the US. His time in London’s Belmarsh Prison, where he’s been held since April 2019, would count toward his sentence, and Assange could be free shortly after reaching the deal.

While such a deal could potentially secure Assange’s freedom, it could still set a dangerous precedent since it would criminalize the relationship between a journalist and his source.

Kevin Gostzola, author of the book “Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case Against Julian Assange,” suggested the US could have leaked the talk of a plea deal to the press to portray Assange as unreasonable if he didn’t take it.

“Basically, US officials chat to the press about some possible plea deal for Assange when he isn’t guilty of any crime. If Assange’s team signals it would never be acceptable, then it is Assange’s fault that he remains in prison. Officials can say he wants to martyr himself,” Gostzola wrote on X.

Last month, Assange’s legal team presented its case for an appeal to the UK home secretary’s decision to extradite Assange to the US, and a decision on whether or not he can appeal is expected to happen soon.

The Australian government has been calling on President Biden to drop the charges against Assange, who is an Australian citizen. Some members of Congress have also been calling for an end to the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder, including Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who brought Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, to President Biden’s State of the Union.

WikiLeaks and Assange supporters are asking Americans to add to the pressure by contacting Congress. Americans can call their House representatives to support H.Res.934, a bill introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) that calls for the US to drop the charges against Assange.

 Click here to find your representative, or call the House switchboard operator at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to support the resolution to protect the First Amendment and press freedom.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.