[Ppnews] Bradley Manning Offers to Plead Guilty to Partial Charges

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 8 14:24:41 EST 2012


  Bradley Manning Offers to Plead Guilty to Partial Charges, Including
  Leaking to WikiLeaks

    * By Kim Zetter
      <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/author/kimzetter/>Email Author
      <mailto:kzetter at wired.com>
    * http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/11/bradley-manning-plea-notice/

In a surprising turn of events, accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning 
offered on Wednesday to plead guilty to parts of the charges he is 
facing, in exchange for the government pursuing lesser charges.

Manning did not plead guilty but indicated in a plea notice submitted by 
his attorney, David Coombs, that he is willing to accept responsibility 
for some of the lesser included charges, but not the charges as they 
stand in whole.

The move is known as "pleading by exceptions and substitutions" and is a 
strategy for negotiating the charges against him, which his attorney has 
tried repeatedly to do, unsuccessfully, via other means during pre-trial 
hearings.

Defense attorney Coombs wrote on his blog 
<http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/2012/11/pfc-mannings-offered-plea-and-forum.html> 
that Manning "is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged" 
by prosecutors, but rather "is attempting to accept responsibility for 
offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged 
offenses."

This includes pleading guilty to providing hundreds of thousands of 
documents to WikiLeaks, according to blogger Kevin Gosztola 
<http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/11/07/bradley-manning-indicates-he-would-take-responsibility-for-transferring-information-to-wikileaks/>, 
who was at a hearing for Manning on Wednesday and broke the news. But it 
might not include pleading guilty to the espionage charge that Manning 
is facing or to aiding the enemy or exceeding authorized access on 
government networks.

"Coombs told the court Manning had submitted a plea notice indicating he 
would would accept general responsibility for providing all charged 
information to WikiLeaks," Gosztola noted.

The move would help his attorney focus his defense on fewer points of 
contention, since it would take parts of the charges off the table at 
trial, though not eliminate charges in their entirety, which is what he 
has previously tried to do.

Manning's attorney likely made the move in an effort to obtain a cap on 
sentencing that would hold even if he's found guilty of the more serious 
charges to which he doesn't plead guilty now, says Lisa Windsor, a 
retired Army colonel and former JAG officer now practicing military law 
with the New York law firm of Tully Rinckey 
<http://www.tullylegal.com/our-team/lisawindsor>. Manning currently 
faces life in prison if convicted of all the charges. The most serious 
charge --- aiding the enemy --- carries a possible death penalty. 
Prosecutors have already said they will not seek the death penalty, however.

"Pleading guilty is conceding that the government is able to prove these 
charges," Windsor says, "and he doesn't believe the government is able 
to prove the more serious charges of aiding the enemy."

Manning's attorney may also be hoping that the government will simply 
drop the more serious charges once he offers to plead guilty to the 
lesser included ones.

Windsor says she does not recall any cases that proceeded to trial after 
a defendant pleaded guilty to lesser included charges or used the 
"exceptions and substitutions" plea.

"Usually the accused pleads guilty and that's it, or you have a 
contested trial," she says. Having a case go to trial with a mixed plea 
-- where some charges are pleaded and others are not -- is unusual.

"Ideally if you offer to plead guilty you want the other charges to be 
dropped, but I don't think that's going to happen in this case," she 
says, given the extensive number of charges Manning is facing, and the 
unusual nature of the case.

Manning did not approach prosecutors about a plea deal, but instead 
simply asked the court martial convening authority to decide whether 
what he's suggesting is a permissible plea. If the convening authority 
determines that his plea is legally permissible, prosecutors can still 
decide to prove the charges against him.

"Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not 
change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for 
which he is scheduled to stand trial," Coombs wrote.

Coombs has tried unsuccessfully both to have the number of charges 
against his client reduced --- they currently stand at 22 charges --- 
and to have the most serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy 
dropped.

Manning also told the court on Wednesday that he was electing to have a 
trial by military judge, instead of a trial by jury. His trial is 
currently set for February.

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, is accused of leaking 
hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive U.S. government 
documents to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, including the 
headline-making "Collateral Murder" video showing a deadly 2007 U.S. 
helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several 
innocent civilians including two employees of the Reuters news agency.

In online chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo, Manning boasted of 
leaking a separate video related to the notorious 2009 Garani air strike 
in Afghanistan that WikiLeaks has previously acknowledged is in its 
possession, as well as the large databases that later formed WikiLeaks' 
most high-profile releases. Those include over 250,000 U.S. diplomatic 
cables, more than 400,000 U.S. Army reports from the Iraq War and some 
90,000 reports from the Afghanistan War.

-- 
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