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Bradley Manning Motion Hearing: Speedy Trial Ruling, Possible Plea (Updates)

Supporters outside gates of Fort Meade

10:40 AM EST Waiting for speedy trial ruling. Housekeeping wrapped.

We went over motions that were filed by the government and defense. Bradley Manning signed off on a stipulation of testimony to the court. The judge asked Bradley Manning if he approved of the content of the stipulation and how it will be used. It apparently comes from a Fort Leavenworth witness and is being approved so the witness does not have to testify in court.

9:55 PM EST On November 9, 2012, Reuters posted this analysis from legal experts on the benefits and drawbacks of Manning’s possible or proposed plea.

Original Post

Court martial proceedings at Fort Meade for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier the United States military is prosecuting for allegedly releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, resume today. The military judge is expected to announce a ruling on the defense’s motion arguing Manning’s speedy trial rights have been violated. A four-day motion hearing is also expected to include deliberation over a possible plea.

Manning’s defense called for all charges with prejudice to be dismissed if the Army Col. Judge Denise Lind rules speedy trial rights were violated.

The defense and government agree that the speedy trial clock is at 85 days. This number comes from adding the following periods:

28 May 2010 – 11 July 2010 (45 days)

16 Dec 2011 – 23 December 2011  (Article 32 hearing, 8 days)

3 Jan 2012 – 11 Jan 2012 (9 days)

15 Jan 2012 – 3 Feb 2012 (23 days)

A soldier in the military has had his or her speedy trial rights violated when the days exceed 120 days (up to arraignment).

Manning has been imprisoned without trial for over one thousand days now. It may seem like it would be obvious that his rights have been violated. However, military prosecutors are able to go to a court martial convening authority and request an “excludable delay.”

The defense motion called attention to how “the Convening Authority operated as a mere rubber stamp by granting all delay requests, which totaled 327 days, without being provided with or itself providing any reasons that justified the excluded delay as reasonable.” The defense objected to delays of the Article 32 hearing that was ultimately held in December 2011 to decide whether to refer charges to a court martial. The government contended it had to complete classification reviews before the Article 32 could be held. The government also claimed to be struggling to organize a Sanity Review board to determine if Manning was fit for trial.

Back in November of last year, Manning indicated he would accept responsibility for transferring some information to WikiLeaks and plead guilty to lesser offenses. David Coombs, his defense lawyer, stated, “PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses.  The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea.”

It was not a plea deal with the government. It was what is called a naked plea. It was both designed to possibly curry favor with the judge because he would not force the government to prove all twenty-two charges he faces had been committed and intended to make the government prove the most serious charges, which may be more difficult to argue at trial.

On November 29, 2012, the judge accepted some of Manning’s proposed and anticipated pleas. She determined that eight of those pleas were proper pleas to lesser-included offenses in the charges and specifications.

Manning did not plead guilty to aiding the enemy, stealing an unclassified global address list or committing any computer crime offenses under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The judge found to be acceptable lesser-included offenses Charge 2, Specification 2, which was the unauthorized possession of video and willful communication of it to a person not entitled to receive it. She accepted lesser-included offenses of Specifications 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 and 15 of Charge 2. And the judge accepted the plea to Specification 5 of Charge 3 as written.

Manning is not pleading guilty to the original offenses under the Espionage Act and CFAA. He would like elements that make those offenses federal statutory violations to be stricken so he can plead guilty to mere military code violations.

If the plea to lesser offenses is accepted by the judge, the government will still have to prove a sentencing case. The plea would be a limited guilty plea so the government could proceed with having the trial that is scheduled for June 3.

For a thorough analysis of the anticipated plea, read Alexa O’Brien’s thorough accounting of what charges or lesser offense he could plead guilty and not guilty.


The motion hearing is scheduled to go on for four days, however, it is likely to wrap before Friday, March 1.

I am in the media center at Fort Meade. The New York TimesThe Washington PostAFP, Telegraph, The  GuardianCourthouse News, Alexa O’Brien and Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network are all here to cover proceedings—along with Firedoglake. (RT has a reporter in the public gallery.)

I’ll be posting updates on Twitter @kgosztola during the shorter breaks and during long breaks or lunch recess there will be updates posted here.

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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."