Rules Broken With Manning, Says Marine
FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) - Pfc. Bradley Manning should not have been placed on suicide risk status during two periods of his incarceration at a Marine Corps prison in Quantico, Va., the head of Marine corrections testified Wednesday.
For more than a week, attorneys for the alleged WikiLeaks source have been building a case that Manning was subjected to "unlawful pretrial punishment."
If the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, agrees, she could dismiss charges against him, or reduce his sentence if he is convicted.
Manning, who is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of government files, could face a life sentence if he is convicted of "aiding the enemy."
He faces 21 other charges, which could bring him decades in prison.
Days after his arrest in May 2010, authorities sent Manning, 24, to a military prison in Kuwait, where guards discovered that he had created nooses.
They sent him to Quantico for roughly nine months, from July 29, 2010 to April 19, 2011.
Manning spent his entire time in Quantico maximum custody and "prevention of injury," or POI status, forcing him to spend more than 23 hours a day alone in a constantly monitored, 6-by-8-foot cell.
During three periods, the prison placed Manning on Suicide Risk, or SR status, making him strip naked at night, put on a rough smock and sleep on a special mattress and blanket.
On Wednesday, Chief Warrant Officer-5 Abel Galaviz, corrections chief of the Marines, said that two of these SR designations broke the rules outlined by the Secretary of the Navy, known as the SecNav instructions.
"When prisoners are no longer considered to be suicide risks by a medical officer, they shall be returned to appropriate quarters," the instructions state.
On Aug. 6, 2010, Manning's primary brig psychologist, Capt. William Hocter, assigned Manning to suicide risk status for two days.
Brig staff kept him on that status until Aug. 11.
Quantico officials put Manning back on suicide risk again from Jan. 8 to 10, 2010, overruling Hocter's recommendations.
After the brief intake period at Quantico, Hocter consistently found that Manning was not suicidal.
Galaviz also questioned the integrity of the Classification and Assignment, or C&A, board, which issued weekly recommendations for Manning to remain on POI and max status.
The leader of the C&A board, then-Gunnery Sgt. Craig Blenis, recommended to his junior enlisted board members to maintain these classifications, before each vote, evidence showed.
"A person making a recommendation should not be serving as a board member," Galaviz said. "For [Blenis] to serve as a board member... I don't think they're going to go against his recommendation."
The structure of the board could give rise to "unnecessary command influence," he said. "Maybe. I don't know. That's what I would think."
He later gave a more definitive position under questioning by Judge Lind.
"It can be suspicious," he said. "We know what his vote is going to be because he's making a recommendation."
He added, "It probably happens more often then I care to think."
Manning remained in maximum custody and POI status throughout his confinement.
Galaviz said that in more than 20 years in corrections, he remembered only two detainees being kept in that status for more than a year. Both were held at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. for a year, he said.
One of them, he said, was constantly cutting himself.
Lind asked Galaviz if this unidentified detainee cut himself repeatedly over the course of time.
"Oh, yes, ma'am," Galaviz replied. "It was incident upon incident upon incident."
Manning never attempted suicide inside of the Quantico brig, but Quantico officials said that some of his comments on the topic troubled them.
Next to the "suicide" field on his intake form, Manning wrote, "Always planning, never acting."
Though he said he regretted the remark, multiple brig staffers testifying at the hearing said that this remark kept them constantly on guard.
"For someone to say something like that, to me, I can't just brush that off," Master Sgt. Brian Papakie testified Wednesday.
A square-jawed Marine with short blond hair, broad shoulders and a relaxed demeanor, Papakie said that he was the brig supervisor to whom Manning complained about his confinement status.
He said that Manning let out a "quick chuckle" after saying that if he really wanted to kill himself, he could use the elastic of his underwear.
Capt. Hocter, the brig psychologist, said that Manning was intellectualizing about the absurdity of his confinement.
Shortly after this incident, Papakie sent an email addressed to the "Gents" of the Quantico brig.
"Make sure [Manning] is not standing at attention naked for evening count right before taps," it stated. "You should be taking his panties right before he lays down."
Manning's lead attorney, David Coombs, grilled Papakie about this language.
"Do Marines refer to male underwear as panties?" Coombs asked.
"I have," he replied.
Papakie acknowledged that "it may and it does" commonly refer to female undergarments, but he denied that there was any hidden meaning in the word.
He says he even refers to himself getting his "panties in a bunch."
"You knew that Pfc. Manning was gay, right?" Coombs asked.
"Yes, sir," Papakie replied.
Papakie agreed when Coombs said that the language was "not really professional."
Brig base Cmdr. James Averhart is expected to testify all day today (Thursday).