Bradley Manning Not Guity of Aiding Enemy, Guilty on 19 Other Counts
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A military court Tuesday found 25-year-old Pfc. Bradley Manning not guilty of the government's most serious charge against him, that of aiding the enemy, but was found guilty of most other charges, including five counts of espionage.
The verdict, announced shortly after 1 p.m. EDT, came after the conclusion Friday of his military court martial in Fort Meade, Md., where he is being held. The charge of aiding the enemy was the most serious of the 21 counts the government filed against Manning related to the disclosure of classified information and carried a possible sentence of life in military custody with no chance of parole.
Media experts had cast the trial as having powerful ramifications for investigative journalism, particularly if Manning was convicted of the charge of aiding the enemy. Journalists have said a conviction would silence potential sources, crippling efforts to discover and publish information related to government activities.
Even without a conviction on that count, Manning could easily wind up spending the rest of his days as prisoner. According to wire sources, the convictions he has received could lead to a combined sentence of 130 years. Sentencing in the case is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
Manning had pleaded guilty to 10 of the lesser charges that could carry a sentence of up to 20 years, but has pleaded not guilty to aiding the enemy and other more serious offenses.
Manning's defense team opted for a military judge rather than a trial by jury. Both that choice and the guilty pleas, which were not part of a plea bargain, are considered risky maneuvers.
Manning shared hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents and videos with the Web site WikiLeaks. The most notorious disclosure was a video, available on YouTube, showing a helicopter firing on a group of people, including children. The attacks killed a dozen people including a Reuters TV news cameraman, according to a CNN account.
Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, told the Christian Science Monitor that Manning's disclosure of documents was "without a doubt the most influential leak in history."
During his trial, Manning claimed he was "depressed by the situation" in Iraq while stationed there and disturbed by information in the documents he read and released, but did not feel release of the material would harm the United States, according to a report on CNN.
"I believed if the public was aware of the data, it would start a public debate of the wars," he is reported to have said during his court-martial.