What the Manning Findings Mean

If you’ve been reading around the internet, you’ll find various accounts of the Bradley Manning court-martial. Trying to decipher the bottom line is difficult, if not impossible. The best digest I’ve found is here. H/T CAAFLog.

In summary, it states the following:

Bradley Manning has been found not guilty of aiding the enemy but still faces up to 130 years in prison after being found guilty on several counts of theft and espionage.

The military judge hearing the case, Army Col Denise Lind, gave her verdict at 1pm on Tuesday. The aiding the enemy charge was the most serious, as it carried a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

However Manning could still face an effective life sentence after being convicted on numerous other counts. He was found guilty of five charges of theft and five charges of espionage as well as other offenses. His convictions carry a maximum sentence of up to 130 years in prison.

Manning’s sentencing hearing will begin tomorrow.

What does this mean? A few things.

1. He has been found guilty of most of the charges and their specifications, including those involving larceny and espionage. If I’m tracking it correctly, he was found guilty of 17 of 22 specifications outright and another 4 lesser included offenses.

2. He was found not guilty of the most serious charge, UCMJ Article 104, Aiding the Enemy. Most media outlets are focused on this one point. However, it is merely one of many charges. The others can add-up, as you’ll see in point #3.

3. He faces a maximum of 130 years (assuming the reporter’s calculations are correct). This assumes that the judge will not rule in Manning’s favor regarding the multiplicity (for sentencing)* of some of the charges. This can happen via defense motion or by the military judge sua sponte. In my experience, this happens with some regularity in courts-martial at the judge’s discretion. It can change the max possible sentence dramatically, or very little, it all depends on, well, a lot of things. Expect a motion from defense on this.

4. The minimum possible punishment is no punishment.

5. Sentencing is like a trial unto itself. Both sides will present witnesses, documentary evidence, and give sentencing arguments. Prosecution presents evidence to try and show aggravation. Defense submits matters in extenuation and mitigation. After that, the military judge will need to deliberate again. In short, there’s still a lot remaining.

 

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*Multiplicity. Suppose a soldier is found guilty of two charges. One carries a max penalty of 10 years, and the other carries a max penalty of 15 years. This means a maximum possible punishment of 25 years (both added together).  If the judge finds in favor of the defense on multiplicity, the maximum punishment would be 15 years (the max of the most serious of the charges). In the discussion for Rule for Court-Martial 1003(c), the Manual for Court-Martial states, in part, that charges “may not be separately punishable if the offenses were committed as a result of a single impulse or intent.” So, this will be an interesting subplot during sentencing.

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