Sentencing Bradley Manning: He could get 100 years, he could get none (+video)
The sentencing hearing, beginning Wednesday, gives Pfc. Bradley Manning the ability to present more mitigating evidence. But his sentence could quickly add up – or later be set aside completely.
As the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning begins its sentencing phase Wednesday, the prosecution will attempt to show that the documents he released gravely damaged national security.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks Scandals
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
At the same time, the defense will make the case that the perhaps the government was embarrassed by Private Manning’s disclosures, but they did not cause the catastrophic harm to national security that the Obama administration initially claimed.
To bolster this point, they will no doubt point to an August 2010 Pentagon review that concluded that the dire predictions made by the Pentagon about the damage the leaks would cause had not come to fruition.
The Defense Department report instead found that the leaks had not compromised US intelligence sources or practices, although it did warn that the disclosures could at some point in the future still cause damage to US national security interests.
“They are going to try to show that nothing he did ultimately harmed the country,” says Richard Rosen, former commandant of the US Army’s Judge Advocate General’s School and currently the director of the Center for Military Law and Policy at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock.
The bulk of this sort of evidence could not be introduced before the judge rendered its verdict, because it could be deemed prejudicial or irrelevant, but in the sentencing phase of the proceedings, “The rules of evidence are relaxed,” Mr. Rosen adds.
For example, Manning may make a statement on his own behalf. This could be sworn testimony – in this case, the prosecution could cross-examine him.
He could also choose to make an unsworn statement, which would not be eligible for cross-examination.
The key for Manning will be providing mitigating evidence – “factors that may sway the judge to grant him a lesser sentence,” Rosen says. “This may be family problems or that people persecuted him because of his sexual preferences.”
The sentencing phase will be extensive and may last for weeks. Although Manning was acquitted of “aiding the enemy,” which would have carried with it a life sentence without the possibility of parole, he has been found guilty of crimes that generally impose decade-long sentences each, which could quickly add up.