On Wednesday, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks. The judge also ruled that the 25-year-old's rank be reduced from private first class to private, and also dishonorably discharged him.
Manning was found guilty last month of violating both the Espionage and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts, and of stealing government property. He was acquitted of aiding the enemy, a crime punishable with the death penalty. The judge could have sentenced Manning to up to 90 years; the time he will serve will be reduced by the more than three and a half years he has already served since his arrest in 2010.
The government argued that Manning betrayed it by releasing more than 700,000 government files to the non-profit WikiLeaks, which publishes secret information and leaks from anonymous sources on its website. The organization supported Manning throughout his trial and campaigned for his release. In a statement released earlier this month, WikiLeaks condemned the judicial process Manning has gone through, saying he had been denied the right to "conduct a basic whistleblower defense."
Manning's lawyer had argued for a prison term of no more than 25 years, but the government prosecutor said a longer sentence would dissuade other potential leakers from releasing classified documents.
The Bradley Manning Support Network, a grassroots organization, raised $1.4 million to cover the soldier's legal fees. It called the sentence "an outrage that flies in the face of America's essential ideals of accountability in government, and which seeks to instill a chilling effect on those who'd dare to expose the United States' illegality." The organization said Manning released the information to expose war crimes and corruption while he was stationed in Baghdad from 2009 to 2010.
The 35-year sentence will be sent to the Army Court of Appeals after official transcripts of the trial proceedings have been created, and Manning's lawyer has already announced he will seek a presidential pardon.
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