Reporting Alex DeMetrick
FORT MEADE, Md. (WJZ/AP) –The penalty for passing secrets for Army Private Bradley Manning is 35 years in prison. That sentence was handed down at a court-martial at Fort Meade on Wednesday morning.
Alex DeMetrick reports Manning could he headed to a cell at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, but his supporters have already begun an effort to reduce that punishment.
When Manning arrived at the courtroom at Fort Meade on Wednesday morning, he knew prosecutors had urged the judge to sentence him to 60 years.
The defense was asking for no more than 25 years.
Military Judge Colonel Denise Lind sentenced Manning to 35 years and a dishonorable discharge.
His lawyer spoke of his talk with Manning after the punishment was revealed.
“He looks at me and says ‘It’s OK. It’s alright. Don’t worry about it. I know you did your best. It’s gonna be OK,’” said David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer.
Indeed, it could have been a lot worse for Manning, who while serving with the Army in Iraq, copied and passed on 700,000 documents—including classified ones—to the WikiLeaks website.
He also approved video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed civilians and two journalists.
Supporters call him a courageous whistleblower.
“He helped expose war crimes that should have been reported early on,” said Farah Muhsin, Manning supporter.
But prosecutors called him a traitor and were originally seeking a life sentence.
The verdict: guilty of 20 out of 22 charges, including six violations of the Espionage Act and five counts of theft.
But he was found not guilty of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.
Supporters made no secret of their next effort.
“A request of the president to pardon Pfc. Manning or at least commute his sentence to time served,” Coombs said in a news conference.
Manning will get credit for the more than three years he has been held, including 112 days for being illegally punished by harsh conditions at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps brig. When he has served seven more, for a total of 10, he will be eligible for parole.
Military prisoners can earn up to 120 days a year off their sentence for good behavior and job performance, but must serve at least one-third of any prison sentence before they can become eligible for parole.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says Manning’s sentence is a tactical victory because he could be released on parole before finishing the 35-year term.
However, Assange says “the only just outcome” is Manning’s unconditional release and compensation for his treatment in a military prison before his trial.
Assange blasted the administration of President Barack Obama, saying officials are demonstrating that there is no place “for people of conscience and principle.”
Fort Leavenworth is home to the American military’s most famous prison. The Army penitentiary has shed its once-imposing stone edifice, but inside Manning would confront a dreary, unchanging environment where inmates are highly restricted, graveyard work shifts are common and jobs pay just pennies per hour.
If space there is limited, he can be sent to a civilian federal prison.
The judge made no comments when she imposed her sentence, and Manning took the decision calmly, showing no signs of emotion.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)