Military judge reduces maximum sentence for PFC Bradley Manning

Judge Denise Lind. SOURCE: The Pentagon Channel

A military judge this week reduced the maximum sentence that can imposed on PFC Bradley Manning by 46 years.

Judge Col. Denise Lind granted part of the defense’s motion to merge some of the 20 counts of theft and unauthorized disclosure of defense information of which Manning was found guilty, thereby lowering the maximum sentence from 136 years to 90 years in prison.

Read more: PFC Bradley Manning acquitted of “aiding the enemy” but found guilty of Espionage Act, theft & computer fraud charges

Two days after Manning was convicted of 20 out of the 22 charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified government records to WikiLeaks – including the Apache “collateral murder” video, State Department diplomatic cables, Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, and the Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs – the defense filed a motion to merge 14 charges, arguing that the prosecution filed multiple charges for each criminal act to “unreasonably increas[e] PFC Manning’s punitive exposure”.

Read more: Human rights, civil liberties & free press advocates express concern over “dangerous” precedent set by Manning’s conviction on espionage charges

The judge would have to consider the four factors in determining whether there was an unreasonable multiplication of charges:

  • whether there was evidence of prosecutorial overreach;
  • whether the number of charges exaggerate the accused’s criminality;
  • whether the number of charges “unreasonably increases the accused’s punitive exposure”;
  • and whether each charge and specification applies to “distinctly separate criminal acts”.

Lind allowed the following specifications to be merged for sentencing:

  • Specification 4 (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting more than 380,000 “significant activities” (SIGACT) records from the Combined Information Data Network Exchange (CIDNE) database for Iraq) and Specification 5 (unauthorized release of classified records from the CIDNE Iraq database) Charge II: Reduction of 10 years
  • Specification 6 (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting more than 90,000 SIGACT records from the CIDNE Afghanistan database) and Specification 7 (unauthorized release of classified records from the CIDNE Afghanistan database) of Charge II: Reduction of 10 years
  • Specification 8 (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting more than 700 Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs) and Specification 9 (unauthorized release of Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs) of Charge II: Reduction of 10 years
  • Specification 12 (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting more than 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables) and Specification 13 (committing computer fraud by using the WGet freeware to download the State Department cables) of Charge II: Reduction of 10 years
  • Specification 8 of Charge II (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting 700 Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs) and Specification 2 of Charge III (adding unauthorized software in violation of U.S. Army Regulation 25-2): Reduction of 2 years
  • Specification 12 of Charge II (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting approximately 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables) and Specification 3 of Charge III (adding unauthorized software in violation of U.S. Army Regulation 25-2): Reduction of 2 years
  • Specification 16 of Charge II (stealing, purloining, or knowingly converting 70,000 email addresses of U.S. service members in Iraq) and Specification 4 of Charge III (adding unauthorized software in violation of U.S. Army Regulation 25-2): Reduction of 2 years

However, Lind denied the defense’s request to merge Specifications 4, 6, 5 and 7 of Charge II pertaining to the theft and unauthorized release of classified records taken from the CIDNE Iraq and Afghanistan databases.

The defense argued that Specifications 4 through 7 “involve conduct that essentially arose out of the same transaction”. The defense pointed out that Manning downloaded the CIDNE Iraq and Afghanistan SIGACT records on the same day and subsequently submitted them to WikiLeaks in a single transmission.

“The dividing of this single act into four specifications takes what should be a ten year offense and makes it a forty year offense. The number of specifications unfairly increases PFC Manning’s punitive exposure,” according to the defense’s motion.

Lind noted that Manning “had to access separate databases to extract” more than 380,000 CIDNE Iraq and 90,000 CIDNE Afghanistan SIGACT records, and that Specifications 4 and 6 of Charge II (theft of classified records) were properly applied.

“These were successive access/extractions that constitute separate and distinct 18 U.S.C. Section 641/Article 134 offense,” wrote Lind. “The charges do not misrepresent or exaggerate PFC Manning’s criminality or unreasonably increase his punitive exposure. There is no evidence of prosecutorial overreaching.”

Lind also did not find Specifications 5 and 7 of Charge II for the unauthorized release of the CIDNE Iraq and Afghanistan records to be unreasonable multiplication of charges even though Manning sent the Iraq and Afghanistan SIGACTs to WikiLeaks in a single transmission.

“The fact that the transmissions may have occurred at the same time or simultaneously is irrelevant for unreasonable multiplication of findings analysis. Charging the volume of national defense information transmitted from both the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A databases in two separate specifications does not misrepresent or exaggerate PFC Manning’s criminality or unreasonably increase his punitive exposure,” Lind ruled.

The defense is expected to call on 20 witnesses for the pre-sentencing phase beginning Aug. 12th.

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