UPDATE – 10:12 PM EST David Coombs continued to press CWO4 Averhart on issue of Classification & Assignment Board: Wouldn’t SSGT. Jordan and SSGT. Lee already know GSGT. Blenis’ vote because he is the counselor who shares his recommendation for Manning’s status in beginning of the Board’s weekly meeting? CWO4 did not have a problem with this: “That’s what brings about their professionalism when they’re not just saying yes.” He added he “had trust & confidence in their professionalism”
Top Marine corrections administrator CWO5 Abel Galaviz found this to be improper. He said this in testimony yesterday and actually stated this would be “putting a lot of confidence in the professionalism of the staff.”
Coombs suggested someone else could have been serving on the Board instead of Manning’s counselor. He said that could have been done to avoid the “perception” that it was improperly conducted.
UPDATE – 9:52 PM EST Manning’s confinement status was reviewed weekly by a Classification and Assignment (C&A) Board. It included three senior department officials. One was then-GSGT. Craig Blenis. Another known to have been on the Board is SSGT. Ryan Jordan. CWO4 Averhart established the board and determined who would sit on it during his tenure.
CWO4 Averhart testified there were 6 or 7 officers who could have been tasked with serving on the Board. This led into a question about the conflict of interest of GSGT. Blenis, who also was Manning’s counselor. He served on 99% of the boards. Why did he have him serve on the board? CWO4 Averhart said it was precisely because he was the chief counselor of Manning that he had appointed him to the Board. He had “no problem with GSGT. Blenis” because of his “professionalism.”
Manning’s defense lawyer, David Coombs, said to him that normally what would happen is GSGT. Blenis would fill in the report and give it to board to report. His recommended status for Manning would already be filled out before any vote on what Manning’s confinement status should be ( MAX/Suicide Risk, MAX/POI, MDI/POI, etc).
“See how that might be a conflict?” Coombs asked. CWO4 Averhart said “understand what perception may look like.” He claimed he had “limitations”—limited personnel to utilize. “Couldn’t say, look counselor for that detainee can’t be member of the Board? CWO4 Averhart admitted this would’ve been a “potential possibility.”
UPDATE – 9:45 PM EST It has consistently been said Pfc. Bradley Manning had a lack of communication with Quantico officers. Coombs asked about lack of communication between officers today specifically singling out the fact that CWO4 James Averhart did not trust the recommendations coming from Dr. Hocter, the Brig psychiatrist who was reviewing Manning’s mental health. CWO4 Averhart never really talked to Dr. Hocter about this issue yet it was this pervasive problem because apparently the officers did not think he was spending enough time in the Brig reviewing Manning.
UPDATE – 9:30 PM EST In the SECNAV Instructions governing the Marine corrections facility of Quantico, there is a statement that is to govern decisions related to detainees on suicide risk: “When prisoners are no longer considered to be suicide risks by a medical officer, they shall be returned to appropriate quarters.” I put the word shall in bold and italics because CWO4 James Averhart chose to debate the definition of word in his testimony when asked why he ignored Brig psychiatrist Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter’s recommendation on August 6, 2010, to take Manning off suicide risk.
Dr. Hocter got a second opinion from another medical officer, Col. Rick Malone. CWO4 Averhart claimed while on the stand he could not see write-up from Col. Malone but also said he saw where Col. Malone agreed with Dr. Hocter to take Manning off suicide risk.
CWO4 Averhart claimed “Shall does not mean”—or “the way I perceive it”—”immediately or right now.” He said his decision was essentially subject to his “interpretation of the word.” Also, he had not talked to a Judge Advocate about his decision. Coombs asked if “shall” meant “when he got around to it” or “to be determined.” CWO4 Averhart said it means “when I am satisfied” after looking at factors and progress. Coombs followed up asking if “shall” had any “time limitation.” CWO4 Averhart would not specify.
CWO5 Abel Galaviz testified yesterday. He did an inquiry in February 2011 that found CWO4 Averhart was in violation when he didn’t take Manning off suicide risk on August 6.
UPDATE – 6:50 PM EST CWO2 Denise Barnes will take the witness stand tomorrow. She took over the Brig in the middle of January and was person making ultimate decision on Manning’s confinement custody/classification until he was transferred from Quantico to Leavenworth in April 2011.
UPDATE – 6:46 PM EST Leaving Ft. Meade base. I’m going to add a few more updates on CWO4 Averhart’s testimony and probably have a report later in the night.
UPDATE – 4:00 PM EST This email was the subject of the defense’s cross-examination of CWO4 Averhart:
How is this verbage [sic]?
(2) On 13 December 2010, a package from Amazon.com was delivered to the Brig by a
construction worker who works at a nearby site. There was no previous request for a package submitted by Det Manning and there was no previous approval for a package given by the Brig OIC. When asked about any potential packages that may be coming, Det Manning stated that he was not aware of any but thought that family members may be sending something due to his upcoming birthday. The package is being rejected and returned to sender due to the manner in which it was received and also because there was no prior request or knowledge of the package by SND, and there was no pre-approval given by the ***Redacted***, and we felt like being dicks.
It was sent by MSGT. Blenis. CWO4 Averhart responded, “You crazy Gunny.” Coombs asked, “Why did you respond that way?”
“I understand what the Gunny meant. I understand with no way attempting to be demeaning and disrespectful,” he stated. “Although it was inappropriate and tasteless and shouldn’t have been made, I understand what the Gunny was doing.” He admitted it was “not professional.” He admitted it could be seen as problematic because MSGT. Blenis was Manning’s counselor and was supposed to be his advocate in the Brig.
Coombs wanted to know if he made any on-the-spot correction or spoke to MSGT. Blenis about the email. He said he had a “simple conversation with Gunny.” He said something like, “What the f?” to him. Now, in this moment, CWO4 Averhart proceeded to him and haw and, to anyone listening, it would have been reasonable to believe he was making up that this conversation on the email ever happened.
UPDATE – 2:00 PM EST CWO4 Averhart suggests Manning was not walked around “with leg irons on in the bullpen.” Coombs told Averhart he had testified when he was outside he “remained in full restraints.” To this, he replied, “Leg restraints probably should have been taken off.”
UPDATE – 1:24 PM EST To the issue of whether it was unfair for Manning to have a doctor that the Brig Commanding Officer did not trust, Averhart admitted it would be unfair but refused to concede that he had any ability or power to have Dr. Hocter fired so a psychiatrist could be brought in that would do the job better.
Then-GSGT. Craig Blenis and MSGT. Brian Papakie were made aware of the fact that CWO4 Averhart did not trust Hocter. GSGT. Blenis was Manning’s counselor and a senior board member on the Classification & Assignment Review Board, examining Manning’s status and custody classification.
CWO4 Averhart testified he had a “great opinion” of GSGT. Blenis. He’s “very passionate about his job.” His recommendations “meant a lot” because he “was the individual who spent more time Manning.”
For those following along from home, CWO5 Galaviz testified yesterday GSGT. Blenis may have had “unnecessary command influence” on the process for reviewing Manning’s confinement status/custody classification.
UPDATE – 1:13 PM EST There was a back-and-forth between Coombs and CWO4 Averhart over Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter, who continues to pop up as a key player in commanding officers’ decisions to not take Manning off POI (even though Dr. Hocter was recommending he be taken off the status). CWO4 Averhart admitted he did not trust him. He thought his evaluations were “not consistent.”
He told Coombs over the phone (possibly during a deposition) that Dr. Hocter was trying to “cover his six” with his evaluations. In his testimony, CWO4 Averhart added Dr. Hocter was “conducting his duties in a manner if something should’ve happened because there was prior suicide in the base of the facility he was going through the motions.” He was just doing his reports “so if Manning did something he could say he saw him but wasn’t trying to spend time with PFC Manning.” CWO4 Averhart added he could have spent more time instead of “rushing in and rushing out.”
UPDATE – 1:05 PM EST During prosecution’s cross-examination, CWO4 Averhart said he received a “directive” from “CID or NCIS” that directed Quantico Marine Brig to monitor conversations Manning had with visitors. “I was not privy to why they was monitoring,” he added.
UPDATE – 12:50 PM EST Another email was shown to CWO4 Averhart with the subject heading, “Weekly meeting with Col. Choike.” This was from Lt. Col Greer, a Staff Judge Advocate. Coombs showed him this after he denied there were weekly meetings with Col. Choike.
The meeting in the email was on September 10, 2010. CWO4 Averhart said Lt. Col. Choike requested Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter, Cpt. Haberland (of the prosecution) and command reps be there as well. Col. Choike wanted to meet in person. Col. Oltman, the Security Battalion commander, the XO, MSGT. Blenis, MSGT. Papakie and Col. Johnson, a public affairs officer, would attend.
He maintained he would not have weekly meetings with Col. Choike, even after seeing the email. Then, he was asked about meeting with Col. Oltman weekly to speak with him. CWO4 Averhart said it would not be specifically in regards to Pfc. Manning. Coombs showed him an email discussing having a weekly meeting with Col. Oltman that said, “Schedule a meeting for Monday, 30 September for Manning” progress report.
UPDATE – 12:40 PM EST Coombs wanted to know if CWO4 Averhart knew that Lt. Gen. George Flynn, commanding general of Quantico, believed Manning was a potential suicide risk. Averhart said not sure he it came up at meetings but everyone was aware. Coombs asked everyone was aware that Flynn was concerned that Manning was a potential suicide risk? CWO4 Averhart replied Col. Choike may have mentioned this at the base but he never received any orders.
That was not what Coombs was asking, he said. He wanted to know if Lt. Gen. Flynn considered Manning a “potential suicide risk.” CWO4 Averhart said no. Asked if this was his testimony that Lt. Gen. Flynn never expressed this to him, he added, “That is my testimony.”
UPDATE – 12:34 PM EST CWO4 Averhart denied he was ordered by Quantico Base commander Col. Daniel Choike to send “weekly reports” that would go up the chain of command. Coombs showed Averhart an email where he acknowledged the order, however, CWO4 Averhart would still not concede he was ordered to pass up weekly reports. He said the order was to “keep him abreast” of developments with Manning. So, he was to let Col. Choike know if anything happened but not necessarily through progress reports.
UPDATE – 12:30 PM EST Coombs began his cross-examination of Brig Commander CWO4 James Averhart by asking about Manning’s “intake processing” (how he came to Quantico). He raised the issue of the fact that the form had a score of “5″, not “10″ and it was lower than the 12-plus points that are needed on the objective point scale to put a detainee on MAX custody. The Duty Brig Supervisor on duty overrode the classification and assigned Manning MAX custody. Also he had him placed on suicide risk. CWO4 Averhart approved and he stated he determined the “night prior.” He considered factors such as confinement in Kuwait and charges when making this decision to approve he be placed on MAX/suicide risk.
UPDATE – 11:00 AM EST Government cross-examines CWO4 Averhart. Defense will now begin cross-examination. It could run for hours. More updates on his testimony soon.
UPDATE – 10:55 AM EST CWO4 James Averhart, who served as Brig OIC, testified the other prisoners in Quantico were “very patriotic. They knew why Pfc. Manning was there. They knew the allegations against him.” He was aware of the media attention in the papers and television and was concerned that anything could happen.
When he was being transported outside the facility, Brig Marines with “specialized training” would track his travel from Point A to Point B. They were armed and would escort him.
UPDATE – 9:30 AM EST Proceedings are beginning.
UPDATE – 9:25 AM EST My impassioned and irreverent appearance on “Citizen Radio,” hosted by Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein – here
Proceedings in the case against Pfc. Bradley Manning continues today with the government continuing to put witnesses on the stand to argue Manning did not suffer “unlawful pretrial punishment” while he was detained at Quantico Marine Brig for nine months.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Averhart, who served as the Brig OIC while Manning was confined at Quantico from August 2010 to January 2011, is expected to take the stand. CWO4 Averhart may be the only witness to testify today.
CWO5 Averhart made the decision to classify Manning as a maximum (MAX) custody detainee. He ordered some commanding officers to keep Manning on prevention of injury (POI) status until the Sanity Board completed its review of Manning. He had the guards create a log book specifically for “any kind of odd behavior” guards might witness from Manning in his cell. He forwarded “weekly reports” on Manning up the chain of command of the Marine Corps. He had an issue with Manning’s psychiatrist, Navy Captain Dr. William Hocter, over the fact that he refused to use a stamp.
Manning’s defense lawyer, David Coombs, before he filed the Article 138 complaint in January (on Manning’s confinement conditions in the Brig), contacted CWO5 Averhart urging him to reevaluate Manning’s classification as a MAX custody detainee on POI status. On January 7, 2011, Manning put a “chit” into a box on a cart (where detainees place mail for the Brig OIC or IG) that cited rules and regulations in the Brig order and expressed concerns about his confinement.
Around Christmas, Manning refused to sign a “voluntary statement” because he was uncomfortable about the “sworn language” on the form. CWO5 Averhart confronted Manning about his refusal to sign the statement.
Manning became convinced while he was in confinement that CWO4 would never take him off POI. When CWO2 Denise Barnes replaced CWO4 Averhart, Manning was, for a moment, hopeful he would be taken off POI now.
Yesterday, CWO5 Abel Galaviz, a top correctional administrator and high-ranking Marine officer, testified. Coombs asked him about the nature of the process for reviewing Manning’s confinement conditions and CWO5 Galaviz told Coombs that part of the process may have suffered from “unnecessary command influence.”
I am in the media center covering the proceedings, as I have been for the past seven days of this epic pretrial hearing. Check the top of this post for updates throughout the morning, afternoon and evening.
Follow @kgosztola for updates during short breaks and lunch recess.