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Manning's lawyer plans presidential pardon campaign, says client will appeal

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David Coombs, lawyer of the now-imprisoned Bradley Manning, has told a press conference that he plans to register for a presidential appeal of his client's 35-year sentence ​next week and will be asking for a reprieve or a reduction in his prison term.

"When I heard the sentence '35 years ' I think to myself, I've represented hundreds of clients and my clients have ranged the full spectrum of offenses from people who've committed murder to people who've molested children. Those types of clients receive less time than Pfc Manning," he said.

Under the military penal code, those with sentences of 30 years or more can apply for parole after ten years inside, meaning that with time served and the 112-day reduction to his sentence for being "illegally punished" while in captivity, Manning could conceivably be walking the streets by 2020 or so.

Coombs said that on one level he was relieved at Manning's sentence; had he accepted the government's plea deal, his client would be spending much longer behind bars. Credit in sentencing is usually given if the accused pleads guilty and cooperates, but in this case "it doesn’t seem like we got much credit," he said.

In the meantime, Manning plans to appeal, and the earliest that process can start is by late next year or the year after. Coombs can’t handle that – part of the job of an appeals lawyer is to examine the original attorney's work for mistakes – but said in the meantime he was going to push for a revision in Rules for Courts-Martial 806, which bans the media from observing court proceedings.

"The winner is this case is the public, because they got information they needed to receive in order to see what our country is doing and to spark the discussion that is currently going on right now," Coombs said.

"The loser is anybody who hopes that you will have whistleblowers in the future willing to come forward, because this does send a message; a chilling one. And it's endorsed at the very highest levels."

The timing of the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden was "not the greatest" given the trial calendar, Coombs said, but it had focused attention on Manning's case and shown that he was not the only one releasing information.

As for WikiLeaks, Coombs said that passing information to the group was the same as passing it to any other journalists and he restated Manning's statement that the organization, or Julian Assange, had not asked for or pressured Manning to hand over the purloined reports.

Assange himself released a statement shortly after Manning's 35-years sentence was handed down, declaring it was a "significant tactical victory" for Manning and his supporters, given that the soldier had been facing a capital charge and 135 years in prison.

"Mr Manning’s treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the US government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light," Assange said. "This strategy has spectacularly backfired, as recent months have proven. Instead, the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle. As a result, there will be a thousand more Bradley Mannings." ®

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