Coombs: Obama’s declaration of guilt impacted Manning’s treatment at Quantico

Defense attorney David Coombs said President Barack Obama’s declaration that PFC Bradley Manning “broke the law” may have negatively affected how Manning was treated during his pre-trial confinement at Quantico Marine Base. 

In an exchange with Logan Price at a fundraising event in San Francisco on April 21, 2011, President Obama stated that Manning “broke the law” by releasing hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government records to WikiLeaks.

Obama told Price: “If you’re in the military… I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law. We’re a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate…He broke the law.”

At a press conference last week, Coombs said he believes that Obama’s declaration of Manning’s guilt may have contributed to his client’s mistreatment from July 2010 until April 2011.

“Those statements obviously were untimely. They were not good statements to be made during that portion of the case. And I do think those statements had an impact – not so much on the outcome of the case but it had an impact because at that point PFC Manning was at Quantico. And when you have the President making those statements, obviously those in power to make decisions believe they have top cover. So I think they impacted how he was treated there certainly,” said Coombs.

It’s worth noting, however, that Obama’s comment was made a day after Manning was transferred from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth.

Prior to the April 20, 2011 transfer, Manning was held in solitary confinement for nearly 9 months at the Marine brig.

According to the Article 13 motion filed by the defense, Manning was placed in a 6′ by 8′ cell with no window or natural light. He was required to stay awake in his cell from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day. Furthermore, the guards would check on Manning every five minutes around the clock, “asking him some variation of ‘Are you okay?'” and requiring an affirmative response from Manning, who was sleep-deprived as a result.

Manning’s only out-of-cell time entailed a 3 to 5 minute shower and 20 minutes of “sunshine call” in a “small concrete yard, about half to a third of the size of a basketball court.” He was barred from any contacts with visitors, including his attorney.

For months, Manning was “forced to strip down to his underwear during the day” and even had to “stand naked at parade rest where he was in view of multiple guards” and “forced to sleep naked at night” or with a heavy suicide smock that nearly choked him.

Manning’s treatment was roundly criticized by human rights advocates, including the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The defense sought a minimum 10 to 1 sentencing credit for Manning’s unlawful pre-trial confinement but was granted only 112 days (four months) of Article 13 credit.

Read more: PFC Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years for leaks

Supporters of Manning pointed out that the 112 day credit represented “less than 1%” of the 35 years or 12,775 days in confinement handed down by Judge Col. Denise Lind.

“For the U.S. government to prosecute and sentence [Manning] to so many years after putting him in conditions that an U.N. expert has called ‘inhuman and degrading and humiliating treatment’ is a sign of injustice,” said Naureen Shah, Advocacy Advisor at Amnesty International.

Jeff Patterson, a former Marine and organizer with Courage to Resist, said the severe sentence also sends the wrong message to the military.

“What is the deterrent to the military for torturing a military service member as long as they can win or they believe they’re going to win a lengthy sentence? And that’s deeply troubling,” Patterson said.


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2 Comments on “Coombs: Obama’s declaration of guilt impacted Manning’s treatment at Quantico

  1. Pingback: Transcript: CCR President Michael Ratner's comments on PFC Bradley Manning's 35-year sentence | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Human rights groups denounce Manning's unjust sentence | What The Folly?!

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