Army Private Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in August for leaking hundreds of thousands of government files, and now her appeals lawyer is speaking out, calling the punishment out of proportion to the offense.
"It's a very long sentence compared to other sentences for similar kinds of situations that I'm aware of, or even dissimilar situations like rape and murder," attorney Nancy Hollander told The Associated Press
Others who have leaked government secrets to the media have only received two and a half years or less, Hollander pointed out.
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Manning's trial lawyer, David Coombs, said that she could be released as early as 2020 for good behavior.
In total, the 26-year-old from Oklahoma was convicted of 20 crimes in July. Those crimes included six violations of the Espionage Act. Manning was not convicted of the most serious crime she was accused of — aiding the enemy.
She reportedly leaked over 700,000 classified files, battlefield videos, and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy outfit WikiLeaks, which was founded by Julian Assange.
Last week, Coombs published an open letter
stating that he felt his client did not receive a fair trial. His last act as her representative before the appeals process, he wrote, was to file for clemency.
"Yesterday, I filed PFC Manning’s clemency matters. This filing marks the end of my representation of PFC Manning for her court-martial. Since being retained to represent her on July 16, 2010, I have fought to ensure that she received a fair trial and a just result. Unfortunately, I do not believe that she received either," Coombs' statement read.
Commenting specifically on the length of the sentence he wrote, "Anyone familiar with this case would agree that a 35-year sentence is excessive for PFC Manning’s conduct."
Chelsea Manning, who was born a biological male, was known as Bradley Manning throughout the trial, and later asked to be addressed and treated as a female for the duration of her sentence. She also asked for hormone therapy but was denied because the military does not accept transgender people and also does not offer hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery. It does, however, offer access to mental health professionals.
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