Trials & Litigation

Sentencing phase of WikiLeaks case begins for Bradley Manning, who could still get decades in prison

Acquitted on the most serious charge he faced, aiding the enemy, which carried a maximum life prison term, Pfc. Bradley Manning still faces a potential sentence on the other 20 charges on which he was convicted Wednesday that could put him behind bars for the rest of his days.

As the sentencing phase of his Fort Meade, Md., court martial for providing some 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks began on Thursday, lawyers for the U.S. Army soldier asked Col. Denise Lindh, who is hearing the case, to merge two of his espionage convictions and two of his theft convictions, reports the Associated Press.

Doing so could help reduce the sentence Manning faces, which could total as much as 136 years. However, the prosecution is expected to urge Lindh to give Manning a hefty prison term, and present 20 witnesses to testify to the damaging effect his disclosures had on national security.

Attorney Lisa Windsor, who was a judge advocate before retiring as an Army colonel and starting practice in Washington, D.C., said Manning’s motive in providing the material to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, will also be important.

“You’re balancing that to determine what would be an appropriate sentence,” she said of Manning’s intentions and the damage he caused. “I think it’s likely that he’s going to be in jail for a very long time.”

Whether Lindh imposes sentences concurrently or consecutively could also make a big difference to Manning reports CNN. WikiLeaks has never confirmed that Manning was the source of classified documents published on its website, the news agency notes.

In a written statement after the verdict Tuesday, the website blasted Manning’s conviction as “a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism,’ contending “It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage.’” Civil rights groups also called Manning a free-speech hero, CNN recounts.

“The only reason why the government decided to proceed with this trial is so that it could pursue this dangerous theory that equates leaks to the press with aiding the enemy,” said Ben Winzer, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Daily Mail, NPR’s The Two-Way page and The Nation also have stories.

Related coverage:

Associated Press: “Wikileaks’ Julian Assange running for Australian senate”

The Telegraph: “Bradley Manning is a ‘hero’, says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange”

WikiLeaks: “Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial”

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