A military judge at Fort Meade in Maryland sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison.
Guards quickly escorted Manning out of the courtroom as supporters in the gallery shouted, “We’ll keep fighting you, Bradley,” and also told him he was a hero.
Manning was convicted on July 30th of twenty offenses, including multiple violations of the Espionage Act and embezzlement of government property offenses. He was also convicted of “wrongfully and wantonly causing publication of intelligence belonging to the United States on the Internet knowing the intelligence” that would be “accessible to the enemy to the prejudice of the good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
“At the time of the charged offense,” Judge Army Col. Denise Lind found, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.” His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”
Manning has been in confinement for 1,294 days, including 112 days sentencing credit which he was granted when the judge found that he had been subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment during his nine months of confinement at the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico. This time will serve as credit and reduce his sentence to just over thirty-one and a half years.
Manning is unlikely to serve his entire sentence in prison. He will immediately be able to petition for clemency from the court martial Convening Authority Major General Jeffrey Buchanan. A clemency and parole board in the Army can look at his case after a year. After that initial review, he can then ask the board to assess his sentence on a yearly basis for clemency purposes.
Manning has to serve a third of his sentence before he can be eligible for parole. Appeals application to the Army Criminal Court of Appeals will automatically be entered after the sentence is issued. If Manning or his lawyers do find issues to press, they can take the case to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces and then possibly the US Supreme Court.
There is “good behavior” credit, which can be as much as ten days for each month of his confinement.
The government in its sentencing closing argument on August 19 argued, “There is value in deterrence, Your Honor. This court must send a message to any soldier contemplating stealing classified information. National security crimes that undermine the entire system must be taken seriously. Punish Pfc. Manning’s actions, Your Honor.”
The judge was asked to sentence Manning to sixty years in prison. The government also requested he be forced to forfeit all pay allowances, pay the United States a fine of $100,000, be reduced to the rank of Private E1 and be dishonorably discharged.
“He’s been convicted of serious crimes,” military prosecutor, Cpt. Joe Morrow, declared. He “betrayed the United States and for that betrayal he deserves to spend the majority of his remaining life in confinement.”
The defense did not make an exact recommendation to the judge on how long they believed Manning should be sentenced, but generally recommended the judge issue a sentence that would allow Manning to “have a life” after his time in military prison at Fort Leavenworth.
“This is a young man who is capable of being redeemed. We should not throw this man out for 60 years. We should not rob him of his youth,” Manning civilian defense attorney, David Coombs, declared.
Coombs also argued, “The appropriate sentence in this case would be a sentence that takes into account all facts and circumstances that you’re aware of, that it gives Pfc. Manning an opportunity to be restored to a productive place in society.”
An appropriate sentence would also give him “the opportunity, perhaps, to live the life he wants in the way that he would like, perhaps find love, maybe get married, maybe have children, to watch his children grow and perhaps have a relationship with his children’s children.”
The sentence is far greater punishment than individuals in the military, who actually committed war crimes by killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, have received. It is also, when considering proportionality, a level of punishment than what soldiers or officers involved in torture in the past decade have received.