2013-07-30 Manning judge alters charges to assist govt ahead of verdict

In an ominous sign for Army whistleblower PFC Bradley Manning, military judge Col. Denise Lind altered important charges last week in order to assist prosecutors ahead of her verdict, which is expected tomorrow at 1 PM ET. Defense attorney David Coombs explained, "The Government has pushed this case beyond the bounds of legal propriety. If the Government meant 'information', it should have charged information." Up until last week, Manning was charged with stealing entire databases. The defense has no way to defend Manning against these new charges after the fact.

The government switched its legal theory for three of the five theft charges against Manning, alleging now that Manning stole "portion[s] of" databases instead of the entire databases themselves. It also now contends that Manning stole the information contained within the records, despite merely charging him with stealing databases. This alteration is not semantic. Legally, it's substantially different than the original charges, and more to the point, it comes long after the government rested its case, precluding the defense from going back to question witnesses differently. Left with no other legal recourse, the defense has filed a motion for a mistrial on the theft charges.

"Because all of these critical 'clarifications' are coming after eight weeks of testimony, and because these offenses carry with them 50 years of potential imprisonment, and because the Defense was actually misled by the Charge Sheet, the Defense requests that this Court declare a mistrial as to the section 641 offenses," declared Coombs.

Under Rule for Courts Martial 915, a military judge may declare a mistrial when "manifestly necessary in the interest of justice because of circumstances arising during the proceedings which cast substantial doubt upon the fairness of the proceedings."

In addition to the theft charges, Manning faces a potential life sentence for charges of Espionage, Aiding the Enemy, and Computer Fraud, for passing documents to the website WikiLeaks. He said he released the files, which exposed war crimes and other abuses, to spark a debate about America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its foreign policy more generally.

Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three years in a row.

Contact: Nathan Fuller, 516-578-2628

The Bradley Manning Support Network is responsible for 100% of Manning's legal fees, as well as international education efforts. Funded by 21,000 individuals, the Support Network has mustered $1.3 million in Manning's defense.

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