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Manning attorney defends whistleblower after sentencing

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Published on: Thursday, August 22, 2013

By Donna Broadway and Brian Compere

FORT MEADE – Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for leaking confidential government documents in 2010.

Manning was convicted of 22 charges, including violations of the Espionage Act, in July but was acquitted of the most serious charge against him: aiding the enemy. His sentence was reduced by more than three years for time served and reduced further by 112 days for enduring torture while detained at the Quantico Marine Brigade.

Manning is also eligible for a reduction of his sentence by 10 percent for good behavior. Because of his time served, Manning will be eligible to go in front of a parole and clemency board as early as seven years into his sentence.

David Coombs, Manning’s defense lawyer, read a statement from Manning at a press conference yesterday at The Hotel at Arundel Preserve in Hanover: “I understand my actions violated the law. I regret that my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of love for my country and a sense of duty. If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”

Manning lived with his aunt in Potomac and studied English and history at Montgomery College before enlisting in the Army in 2008. In Feb. 2010, Manning began corresponding with Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks. Manning began his leaks by contacting Assange at the Barnes & Noble on Rockville Pike.

Manning leaked videos of airstrikes, Afghanistan and Iraq war logs, diplomatic cables, Guantanamo Bay files and other classified intelligence. Manning was arrested in May 2010 after private chats he had with hacker Adrian Lamo were released to the FBI.

In light of his time already served, Manning is seeking a pardon from President Obama. At the press conference, about two dozen supporters of Manning stood behind Coombs wearing black shirts with white writing that read, “President Obama: Pardon Bradley.”

Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, did not voice explicit support for Manning, but he expressed concern about the implications of the sentencing for the U.S. legal system.

“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system,” he said. “A legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

Regardless of the outcome of Coombs’ application for a pardon, a college trust fund will be established in order to gather donations to help Manning attend college once he is released.

Coombs said that after Manning received his sentence, he remained calm and told supporters: “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it, I know you did your best. It’s okay and I’m going to be okay and I'm going to get through this.”

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