FT. Meade, Md. — Army Pfc. Bradly Manning’s legal defense team, led by attorney David Coombs, said Monday that the government was “only interested in punishment” rather than “the needs of the individual soldier,” and he urged the judge to hand down a prison term for leaking classified documents that is short enough to someday permit Manning to make parole and return to society.
“The defense requests a sentence that allows him to have a life,” Coombs said.
Earlier Monday, military prosecutors in the court-martial asked the judge to sentence Manning to at least 60 years in prison. “There may be no soldier in the history of the Army who displayed such an extreme disregard,” Army Capt. Joe Morrow said of the 25-year-old former junior intelligence analyst in Iraq.
The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, said she would begin considering the sentence at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The maximum term Manning could receive is 90 years, without the ability to apply for parole until he has served one-third of his sentence.
In the trial, prosecutors portrayed Manning as an arm of Al Qaeda by giving the terrorist network access to 700,000-plus confidential diplomatic cables, war logs and terrorist detainee assessments he provided to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The defense characterized him as a whistle-blower who wanted the public to see classified material he believed proved the U.S. was being untruthful in how it was carrying out two wars and international diplomacy.
The judge acquitted Manning last month of the most serious charge, of aiding the enemy, but found him guilty of other charges, including six counts of violating the Espionage Act.
Coombs said his client was “young, naive, had limited experience and good intentions” when he began leaking the material to spark a debate to end the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He really believed this information could make a difference,” he said. “More importantly, he did not believe this information could be used to harm the United States.”
Further, Coombs charged that the Army let Manning down by not recognizing his emotional problems, getting him therapy and pulling him out of the combat area southeast of Baghdad. He said Manning was “crying out for assistance,” yet his commanders did little or nothing to help him. He called it an “utter failure to take action,” implying that had Manning been helped, he never would have leaked the documents.
Manning has already served three years, and despite harsh jail conditions – for a while he was held naked in solitary confinement – Coombs said Manning still hopes to turn his life around.
“This is a young man capable of being redeemed,” the defense lawyer said.