The case of the private first class who admitted to releasing thousands private U.S. military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks entered the sentencing phase on Wednesday.
While Bradley Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy on Tuesday, he was found guilty of 20 out of 22 charges, including five espionage counts, five theft charges, a computer fraud charge and other military infractions.
“It doesn't mean he will be sentenced for a long time,” Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said. “Time will tell if the sentencing hearing will go well.”
Manning could face up to 136 years in prison for the charges he was found guilty of. His lawyers have asked to merge two of his espionage convictions and two of his theft convictions. Still, even if the military-court martial judge agrees to do so, Manning will still face a maximum sentence of 116 years.
The sentencing phase could take weeks before a decision is rendered. Military prosecutors have said they plan on calling as many as 20 witnesses. The judge had blocked both the prosecution and the defense from presenting information that showed how Manning’s leaks affected or didn’t affect U.S. national security and troops. However, lawyers can bring up points addressing the topic during sentencing.
Timm worried that because a military court was making a decision on a case dealing with military law, Manning would not be treated fairly. He also took issue with the fact that Manning was being charged with spy-related activates, especially since to him it was clear he did not intend to cause harm to the U.S. government. Manning said during a pre-trial hearing that his intent was to expose the real intent of the U.S. military, but he did not want to harm the U.S.
“This might set a worrying precedent to future whistleblowers charged under the “Espionage Act,” he said.