Has more than 900 days in custody without a trial beaten Pvt. Bradley Manning down, or is he simply conceding to the government a couple of charges everybody already knows is true? According to Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, the Army private facing trial (maybe someday!) for providing thousands of military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks is asking to plead guilty so some lesser charges. The New York Times explains:
If the judge accepts the unilateral plea and the trial on the other charges goes forward, prosecutors would apparently not need to present evidence of whether Private Manning provided the documents to WikiLeaks. That would mean such a trial would focus more directly on whether the leaking caused significant harm, and whether the charges, including aiding the enemy, fit the underlying facts.
Coombs’ lawyer is firm that Manning is not attempting to submit a plea agreement or a deal. Manning has also requested to be tried by a single military judge rather than a jury. At least one legal expert finds the offer confusing:
Eugene R. Fidell, a military law specialist at Yale Law School who has represented many defendants in courts-martial, said he was “baffled” by the move. He said it was unusual to plead guilty to an action without the benefit of a pretrial agreement to obtain something in return.
Sometimes, Mr. Fidell added, a defendant might hope that such a move would help obtain a more lenient sentence by showing that he was cooperating and saving the government the time and expense of investigating, but in this case the offer has come well after the government already went to that time and expense.
Speaking of the time the government has spent, despite the offer, Coombs is still trying to get the case thrown out for violating Manning’s right to a speedy trial. The Bradley Manning Support Network is providing courtroom coverage for those who want to delve deeper into the various pretrial hearings.