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Judge: Bradley Manning Punished Unlawfully But Not Enough to Warrant More Than Weak Relief

Judge Denise Lind (Photo by Clark Stoeckley)

In a highly anticipated court decision, a military judge awarded Pfc. Bradley Manning 112 days sentencing credit for unlawful pretrial punishment experienced while confined in a brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico. She did not find evidence to support the dismissal of any charges against Manning.

The soldier, who the military is prosecuting for allegedly releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, was held in the facility from July 29, 2010, to April 20, 2011. He was held as a maximum custody detainee on prevention of injury status, which is a clinical psychiatric status a detainee is placed on when it is believed the detainee poses a risk of self-harm.

Judge Army Col. Denise Lind accepted that the facility was not structured to hold detainees in pretrial confinement. In fact, it was not resourced to house detainees like Manning for more than 180 days. There were no “organic” mental health care assets. Other pretrial detainees confined during Manning’s period of confinement were typically there for only two weeks to three months. However, she did not believe there was any intent in the Marine Corps chain of command to punish Manning.

Lind did not accept the defense argument that there had been any unlawful command influence from superior officers that led the commanding officer of Quantico to keep Manning in restrictive conditions for no justifiable reason. Lt. Gen. George Flynn, commanding general of Quantico, had a “need to know of any changes” so he could properly engage with officials in the higher headquarters.

There was “no intent ot punish the accused by anyone on the Brig staff,” she found. The staff intended to ensure he was safe and “did not hurt or kill himself and was present for trial.” The charges are “serious” and there was “no intent to punish the accused.”

As the government conceded during its closing argument on the defense’s “unlawful pretrial punishment” motion, Manning was awarded seven days for two periods during his confinement: August 6-11 in 2010 and January 18-20 in 2011, when he was not taken off suicide risk , even though medical officers advised the Brig officer-in-charge (OIC) to remove him from this status. [The defense had asked for a 10-for-1 credit. She rejected that request and went with what the government had requested—1-for-1 credit.]

Lind accepted that it was reasonable for Quantico Brig staff to believe Manning had “suicidal ideations.” For the period between August 27 and November 1, it was acceptable for him to be on prevention of injury status. At a certain point, key statements that had influenced the decision could no longer be used to keep him in the strict confinement conditions. She found from November 1 to January 18 Manning was unlawfully punished and awarded him 75 days of credit.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."