FORT MEADE — An Army private accused of sending classified material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks has not been denied a speedy trial despite his lengthy pretrial confinement, and the charges against him will stand, a military judge ruled Thursday.
Attorneys for Pfc. Bradley Manning had asked the judge to dismiss all charges against the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst because he’s been detained for two years and nine months. Defense attorney David Coombs argued that prosecutors dragged their feet and that a commander rubber-stamped their requests for delay after delay.
Prosecutors said the delays were reasonable, given the complexity of the case and the volume of classified material involved. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, agreed with prosecutors, with a few minor exceptions. She denied the defense motion.
Manning faces 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence. His court-martial is scheduled to start in June at Fort Meade, an Army base between Baltimore and Washington.
The 25-year-old Oklahoma native is accused of sending hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, State Department diplomatic cables, other classified records and two battlefield video clips to WikiLeaks in 2009 and 2010 while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad.
The Obama administration has said releasing the information threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America’s relations with other governments. Experts say that by seeking to punish Manning, the administration is sending a strong message that such leaks will not be tolerated.
Manning supporters consider him a whistleblowing hero whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring in late 2010. In an online chat with a confidant-turned-government informant, Manning said he leaked the material because he wanted “people to see the truth.”
Under military rules, defendants must be arraigned no more than 120 days after they are charged, although exceptions can be granted for a variety of reasons, including the need to access classified material. Manning was arrested in May 2010 and was detained for 635 days before his arraignment last February. But Lind ruled that only 90 days of that time counted against the 120-day clock and that the rest of the delays were reasonable.
The case is unprecedented in its complexity and because of the volume of classified material involved, and delays were inevitable as the government worked to gain access to that material and share it with the defense, Lind said in announcing her ruling.
Manning’s supporters around the world held events Saturday to mark his 1,000 days in confinement.
Manning has offered to plead guilty to reduced charges for 10 of the 22 counts he faces. Lind was scheduled to consider on Thursday whether to accept that plea after questioning Manning under oath about his actions. If she were to accept the plea, he would face 20 years in prison on those charges.
However, Manning has not reached a plea deal with prosecutors. Even if the plea were to be accepted, prosecutors could still pursue convictions on the other charges, including aiding the enemy and several counts of theft of government property.
Manning has won few significant victories in his lengthy pretrial proceedings, which included testimony from the soldier about how he was deprived of his clothing and told to stand at attention naked while on suicide watch at the maximum-security Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va. He has since been transferred to medium-security confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Lind ruled that Manning was illegally punished for part of the time he spent at Quantico and that 112 days should be cut from any prison sentence he receives if convicted.