AP NEWS

Rod Rosenstein ruled out death penalty for Julian Assange prior to eviction from embassy: Report

April 16, 2019

Ecuador stopped protecting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange after he was spared a death sentence by Rod Rosenstein, President Trump’s deputy attorney general, a report said this week.

Mr. Rosenstein promised not to seek the death penalty for Mr. Assange during discussions held last year as Ecuador considered the possible consequences of punting the Australian native from its London embassy, ABC News reported.

Citing unnamed sources, the report said that Mr. Rosenstein’s assurance was the culmination of talks between Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, and Manuel Mejia Dalmau, Ecuador’s ambassador to Germany.

Mr. Dalmau requested an “emergency meeting” with Mr. Grenell in Berlin late last year during which he raised concerns about the rising costs associated with shielding Mr. Assange, a resident of the embassy since 2012, ABC News reported.

Ecuador asked if the U.S. would commit to not seeking the death penalty for Mr. Assange, 47, if he was to be ejected from its embassy and extradited abroad, the report said.

Mr. Grenell subsequently contacted the U.S. Department of Justice, obtained Mr. Rosenstein’s consent and accordingly made a verbal pledge promising not to pursue the death penalty, ABC News reported.

Mr. Assange was ultimately arrested last Thursday after Ecuador revoked his asylum status and had him removed from its embassy. He has since been charged by U.S. prosecutors with one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and is jailed in London awaiting an extradition hearing set for May 2.

If extradited to the U.S. and found guilty of the conspiracy charge, Mr. Assange would face a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment. Federal prosecutors have 60 days since requesting extradition to announce additional counts, however.

The State and Justice Department did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the report.

Prosecutors allege Mr. Assange aided former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in attempting to crack a password that would have allowed her to access privileged Department of Defense data. Manning, 31, was convicted of related charges in 2013, including counts of espionage, hacking and theft.