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Judge Urged by Defense to Give Bradley Manning a Sentence That Will Allow Him to Still Have a Life

Manning defense lawyer David Coombs.

Sentencing arguments in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning took place at Fort Meade in Maryland with the government arguing that Manning deserved to be sentenced to sixty years in prison while the defense gave no exact recommendation, but asked Manning be given a sentence that would allow him to still have a life.

David Coombs, Manning’s civilian defense attorney, delivered argument after the prosecutors and said it was “clear” the government is “only interested in punishment.” A recommendation of sixty years could not have taken into account the “individual circumstances of Pfc. Manning or his offenses.”

Coombs proceeded to make an argument that attempted to persuade the judge that Manning could be rehabilitated and returned to a “productive place” in society.

He asked the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, to take into account his ability to be restored and to not “rob him of his youth.” Coombs asked the judge to give Manning the opportunity to have the life he wants, to find love and possibly even have children.

Coombs also acknowledged the government had labeled him a traitor while others had labeled him as a hero. Those are “over-generalizations. They ignore who he is as a person.”

“The court had a year and a half to see the conduct of PFC Manning,” Coombs declared. The court heard from him on multiple occasions. He is a “young man,” and a “very intelligent man.” He is a “little geeky at times, but he’s caring. He’s compassionate. He’s respectful.” At the time of the offenses, Coombs said, as he had before, he was young, naive but had good intentions.

Today, Coombs argued, he “sits three years wiser” after being in confinement for three years. “Some of that confinement, as the court has determined, was unlawful.”  He added that showed another aspect of Manning’s character: his resilience.

The defense’s argument was broken down into the following areas: individual facts in the case, the position of trust he had held, the impact based upon his offenses, his acceptance of responsibility, and various sentencing factors he wanted the judge to give proper consideration including the goal of rehabilitation, the interests of society, Manning’s emotional health and humanist beliefs. Time was also spent deconstructing the government’s argument.

Coombs emphasized the impact of Manning’s releases would be “temporary in nature.” The idea of “any long-term impact” was “speculative at best.”
While admitting that government agencies setting up task forces or groups to respond to the leaks were “legitimate impacts,” which Manning had taken accepted responsibility for causing, Coombs maintained the idea that the impact was ongoing or continuing or getting worse as time goes by ignores reality. There certainly were risks. Releasing 700,000 pages of documents, “something Pfc. Manning could not have read in its entirety,” certainly created risks. However, nothing was “future-looking” or talked about how the US government would change techniques, tactics or procedures in fights against enemies. The release of “Iraq War Logs” or “Afghanistan War Logs” did not have impact because the US military did not change anything.
Coombs outlined how Manning had accepted responsibility, pled guilty without the benefit of a deal and admitted to conduct that he said he had did. He pled guilty knowing he could go to prison for twenty years. He took the “very first step to what we would say is rehabilitation.”
Absolutely, he argued, the chain of command should be held accountable for how they failed Manning. Non-commissioned officer Master Sgt. Adkins was aware of Manning’s problems. These problems before and after deployment show up in memorandums for the record (MFR) that Adkins wrote. Adkins did not notify superior officers with the authority to take action and help Manning. Yet, he was never moved to a less stressful position in the military and redeployed. [cont’d.]
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Judge Urged by Defense to Give Bradley Manning a Sentence That Will Allow Him to Still Have a Life

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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