WASHINGTON — If he doesn’t spend the rest of his life in prison, Pfc. Bradley Manning wants go to college and perhaps run for public office, his lawyer, David E. Coombs, told supporters of the former Army intelligence analyst.
Manning is accused of illegally giving hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and classified reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the website WikiLeaks. He faces 22 criminal charges and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
“He’s confident things will turn out OK for him,” Coombs said Monday, standing in a wooden pulpit in the All Souls Church Unitarian, in front of two large posters printed with Manning’s photograph and the words “Free Bradley.”
Coombs described Manning, 24, as “very encouraged” by the way the pretrial hearings in his case are going. The trial is tentatively scheduled to start in March.
Coombs said he speaks on the phone with Manning every week, and described him as “one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.”
“He is a young man, obviously, and with this has limited experiences,” Coombs said.
Last week, Coombs asked the military judge in the case, Col. Denise Lind, to dismiss the charges against Manning, arguing that his nine-month solitary confinement in a Marine brig in Quantico, Va., was illegal punishment. The judge has not yet ruled on the motion.
Manning, through his lawyer, has indicated that he would be willing to plead guilty to a narrower set of charges that carry a maximum sentence of up to 16 years in prison.
Manning testified that he was stripped and forced to sleep naked for several nights while held in Quantico. Prosecutors said Manning’s treatment was consistent with procedures for a prisoner who is considered a suicide risk. Manning was later moved to a cell at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
Coombs said Manning’s treatment at Quantico was “criminal” and a “disgraceful moment” in U.S. history. He thanked Manning’s supporters for pressuring the government to move him to another prison.
“Your actions resulted in Brad being moved from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth,” Coombs said. “Make no mistake about that.”
Coombs said Manning has received 72,000 letters since his arrest.