The Justice Department has prepared criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in an unrelated court filing Thursday night.
A federal prosecutor in Virginia, who was attempting to keep sealed a separate case involving a man accused of coercing a minor for sex, twice mentioned Assange’s name in the filing, the Associated Press reported.
The charges and arrest warrant “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,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer wrote, stressing: “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 filing mention shows a marked escalation in the Justice Department’s lengthy standoff against Assange’s anti-secrecy group.
Dwyer is also assigned to the WikiLeaks case. People familiar with the matter said that the disclosure was true but unintentional, the Washington Post reported.
“The court filing was made in error. That was not the intended name for this filing,” a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia told the Post.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Assange’s arrest a priority last year, while special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating if the Trump campaign had advance knowledge of the leaked Democratic emails that were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks before the 2016 election.
In July, Mueller’s office charged 12 Russian military spies with conspiring to hack DNC computers, stealing the organization’s data and publishing the files in an effort to disrupt the election. It described WikiLeaks as “Organization 1,” referring to it as the platform the Russians used to release the emails.
While Assange has become a liberal pariah for his role in leaking emails from Clinton and the DNC during the 2016 election, but he has been a wanted man long before that. Since 2012, he has taken refuge within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London fleeing possible extradition to Sweden on charges of rape.