WASHINGTON — Private First Class Bradley Manning will be sentenced Wednesday morning for providing more than 700,000 secret government documents to WikiLeaks, the largest leak of confidential materials in American history, the judge announced Tuesday, just hours after beginning deliberations.
Manning, 25, faces up to 90 years in prison, although he will be credited for the 3½ years he has already spent in custody. The judge, Colonel Denise R. Lind, convicted Manning in July of most of the charges, including six counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.
The sentencing is scheduled for 10 a.m., and the hearing is expected to be brief. Lind will announce Manning’s full sentence before adjourning the court martial, a legal specialist said. She will not break down the sentence by charge or explain her reasoning, and Manning will not make a statement, the specialist said.
Manning’s sentence will automatically be sent to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, unless he unexpectedly decides to waive that right.
On Monday, Manning named one of his lawyers, David E. Coombs, to work with him on the clemency process, through which he could seek a reduction of his sentence. Most likely, he must serve one-third of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole, the legal specialist said.
Hearing expected to be brief
It took just under an hour and a half for both sides to make their closing arguments on Monday. The defense team asked Lind to hand down a lenient sentence that would allow Manning to redeem himself as a productive member of society. Prosecutors urged her to sentence him to at least 60 years, arguing that he had endangered lives and harmed diplomatic relations that are critical to national security.
Coombs, speaking to Manning’s supporters on Monday, said he was surprised by the severity of the punishment requested by prosecutors.
“In my mind, I thought the far outskirts of what they could ask for — and really maintain credibility — would be 40 years,” he said. “When they said 60 — I didn’t envision that.”
Manning avoided a life sentence when Lind acquitted him of the most serious charge, “aiding the enemy.” The government’s decision to prosecute Manning on that charge in a leak case was unusual, and prosecutors continued to pursue it even after Manning pleaded guilty to some of the lesser charges in a bid for leniency. Those charges alone could send him to prison for 20 years.
Prosecutors have made it clear that their intention was not only to punish Manning but also to discourage others from leaking information.
As the Manning case moved forward, Edward J. Snowden, the former government contractor, caused a furor by disclosing classified documents about the National Security Agency’s surveillance efforts. In June, Snowden became the seventh person to be charged under the Obama administration with leaking classified information to the news media.