Merged Convictions Slash Decades|Off Manning’s Possible Sentence

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Pfc. Bradley Manning will not serve more than 90 years in prison, a military judge ruled Tuesday, agreeing to combine several of the convictions against him.
     The 25-year-old soldier previously faced up to 136 years in prison, even after his acquittal last week on the aiding-the-enemy charge, for disclosing the biggest intelligence trove in U.S. history to WikiLeaks.
     Manning’s lead attorney David Coombs moved Monday to chip away at the 20 remaining convictions with a motion opposing an “unreasonable multiplication of charges.”
     Col. Denise Lind acquiesced Tuesday, bringing Manning’s sentencing exposure down to 90 years. The charges were combined for sentencing purposes only, the military judge said, adding that she found no prosecutorial overreach.
     The defense’s motion had noted that Manning’s charge sheet listed his leak of the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports, or “war logs,” separately, and broke down each of these subcategories into counts of unauthorized possession, theft and transmission.
     Coombs argued that these are essentially a “single ongoing act.”
     “In order to have given them to an unauthorized individual, he had to have taken them,” he said.
     Using this same reasoning, the judge could also merge all offenses related to the State Department cables and the use of unauthorized software on his computer, Coombs added.
     The defense likened the case to that of U.S. Air Force Capt. Brent Campbell, a nurse convicted of stealing pain medications. Campbell also was charged with making false statements to obtain the drugs and wrongfully possessing them. The Army’s highest appellate court affirmed the trial judge’s decision to treat these as arising from the same transaction.
     Lead prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein failed to show that the convictions should remain intact because each count punishes a separate act.
     “There’s no question that, for sentencing purposes, Pfc. Manning could have retreated after the theft,” Fein said.
     As an example, he pointed to Manning’s downloading of more than 70,000 addresses from the so-called Global Address List, a database containing emails of soldiers stationed in Iraq. Manning admitted to downloading a part of this list, and prosecutors have never accused him of transmitting it to anybody.

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