FAST FIVE: Assange Faces Death Penalty As DoJ Files Espionage Act Charges
In addition to significantly raising the punishment threshold (from a maximum of 5.5 years under the previous indictment to the prospect of a death sentence for violating the Espionage Act), the new charges will raise serious first amendment issues as Assange will become the first journalist charged under the Espionage Act.
Though it's not a guarantee, Espionage Act violations carry the prospect of a death sentence.
Legal scholars believe that prosecuting reporters over their work would violate the First Amendment, but the prospect has not yet been tested in court because the government had never charged a journalist under the Espionage Act.
Per the NYT, the Obama administration considered bringing the Espionage Act charges against Assange, but balked because it didn't want to raise the First Amendment issue.
While Wikileaks had warned of this possibility, they suspected that the US would wait until Assange was on American soil before bringing Espionage Act-related charges.