Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in jail

They say the wheels of justice grind slowly, but that’s primarily in the United States. Over in Great Britain, they’re apparently capable of moving at lightning speed when the need arises. Less than three weeks after being dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London and arrested, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been convicted and sentenced to fifty weeks in jail on a failure to appear charge after he skipped bail in 2012. Man… that was fast. (NBC News)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced by a British judge on Wednesday to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail in England and hiding out for seven years in the country’s Ecuadorean Embassy.

Assange, 47, failed to report to a police station on June 29, 2012, when he was fighting extradition to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault and rape. Instead, he fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London where he spent the next 2,487 days.

Last month, Ecuador finally withdrew Assange’s diplomatic asylum, and he was arrested by British police. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to surrender to police, relating to his flight in 2012, but he was convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Of all the things Assange has been wanted for by law enforcement, this seemed like one of the least interesting or serious charges. He was wanted in Sweden on rape charges that were later dropped (though they’ve recently expressed interest in opening the case again). We have a pending extradition request to bring him to the United States for a chat about what he was up to with Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. And he winds up getting nearly a year in jail for skipping bail?

According to the Brits, Assange will appear in court again tomorrow (via video link rather than in person) to hear the extradition request. There’s already a second court date set for the middle of June when he will respond to that order. Since he gets to automatically appeal the decision (assuming the Brits agree to the request), it’s being estimated that it could take as much as two years to get him on American soil.

And what about the Swedes? If they want to put him on trial for the sexual assault charges, who gets the first crack at him? Assange is 47 years old now. At the rate this process is moving, he could be well into his fifties before we ever get him in front of a judge.

But in the end, Julian Assange has spent just shy of seven years in what amounted to a prison in the Ecuadorean embassy, though that was by his own choice. He emerged only to be immediately tossed in an actual jail cell for a few weeks and is now on the way to nearly a year in prison. Law enforcement in two other countries is keen on the idea that he might spend some time in their prisons. There’s a very real chance that these stories will define the rest of his life.