Manning’s defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, has filed a motion requesting Lt. Col. Paul Almanza recuse himself from his position as the presiding investigative officer over Pfc. Bradley Manning’s Article 32 hearing.
Coombs listed four reasons that he says independently support but collectively mandate Almanza recuse himself.
First, he has served as a career prosecutor with the Justice Department since 2002 and has prosecuted over 20 cases. The DoJ also has an ongoing investigation into the case of Bradley Manning. He alleged the DoJ would like to flip Manning and have him testify against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The Justice Department has also not ruled out taking over the prosecution from the military.
Second, the government requested twenty witnesses and had all of them granted. They only listed names and no basis for why they would be relevant to the hearing. The defense, on the other hand, submitted a 19-page list of forty-eight witnesses. Ten happened to be on the government’s list and were approved. Only two of the thirty-eight other witnesses, Coombs stated, were approved “to the detriment” of Bradley Manning who is accused of “aiding the enemy,” a charge that carries the death penalty.
Third, Coombs said the defense filed well in advance a request that a limited portion of the hearing be closed. This way it would be possible for there to be no “prejudice to the defense.” He requested this multiple times and was denied. He argued the surest way to prevent prejudice would be to “close proceedings.”
And, finally, Coombs questioned the government’s delays in the judicial process. The defense has constantly asked, “Why is it taking so long?” as has the public. Coombs pointed out the prosecution has asked for “delay, after delay, after delay,” and the investigative officer granted the delay. The delay was related to the government needing to review with “original classified authorities” whether the release of classified information had caused actual damage. However, the prosecution was denied the ability to call witnesses that would testify on this issue specifically: whether actual damage had been caused.
Almanza answered various questions about the case. He said he had presided over six court-martials. He testified that he had begun to work for the Justice Department in 2002. When asked about when he was mobilized to preside over the hearing, he said that happened officially on December 2.
Additionally, he told Coombs he was appointed in August 2010 and was only aware of allegations that appeared in articles or on television. He asserted he made an effort to not read articles or headlines related to the case. He recalled if these allegations were true “it was a serious matter.” But, he said he did not form opinions on this case prior to taking his position as the investigative officer over Pfc. Bradley Manning’s Article 32 hearing.
Court is now in the middle of a recess that could last a while. If Almanza recuses himself, he will do so because he is convinced he is biased. No superior officer can ask him to stay if he concludes he is biased. Also, the proceedings would come to a standstill and it would be weeks before they resumed because a new investigative officer would have to be appointed and given time to become familiar with the case.