Bradley Manning’s Maximum Sentence Reduced By More Than 40 Years


Bradley Manning’s sentence has yet to be determined, but the military judge presiding over his trial has reduced the maximum he’s facing at the end of it all:

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s possible sentence for disclosing classified information through WikiLeaks was trimmed from 136 years to 90 years Tuesday by a military judge who said some of his offenses were closely related.

The ruling was largely a victory for defense attorneys, who had argued for an 80-year maximum. Still, the 25-year-old soldier could spend most, if not all, of his remaining years inside a prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The sentencing phase of Manning’s court-martial is in its second week. He was convicted last week of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, five federal theft counts and a federal computer fraud charge for leaking more than 700,000 documents from a classified government computer network while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010.


At his sentencing hearing, prosecutors are presenting evidence that the leaks damaged U.S. interests. They have focused mainly on the impact of more than 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks began publishing in November 2010.

Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata testified for the prosecution Tuesday that the leaked cables had an impact on U.S. military operations in Pakistan, where he was deputy commander of a defense office within the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. Nagata saved the details of the impact for a closed court session to protect classified information

Ninety years would still mean that Manning would still spend most of his life in prison, of course, but the shortened potential maximum sentence may end up working in Manning’s favor in the ultimate sentence imposed, or in future parole proceedings. In any case, it’s expected that the sentencing phase of this case will last for the balance of the month so it will likely be a few more weeks before we get word of a final disposition here, after which there will inevitably be an appeals process.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Murrel says:

    So he only needs to live to 105 to be free? A change that doesn’t change anything.

  2. JohnMcC says:

    Serious question for the Lawyer: Does the 2nd reduction in the potential maximum sentence by this court make it seem likely that the sentence will not be especially onerous when announced? I tend to hope for that — although I condemn him for his crime.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    @JohnMcC: I believe a former JAG commented in a recent thread that the military judge has very wide discretion to order whatever sentence she thought, but it would have to be within what the law allowed. I just assume the judge has looked closer to determine that a lot of the lesser charges are included in the greater charges.

    I would be surprised if its close to 90 years if there was not any evidence that the leaks got anybody killed.

  4. David in KC says:

    I haven’t had a chance to see if there are any minimums for the charges. But regardless, the judge does have a great deal of latitude on sentencing. I’ve had a case that the accused could have gotten 25 years and he got 5 (I agreed with the sentence, it was appropriate considering the offense) and I had one where he maxed the guy out (judge would have given more if he could). Max being 90, and not having looked at the content of the sentencing testimony, I would guess less than the max. My impression he was a stupid kid who did something stupid. If the judge thought that as well, I would guess 15 to 20 years with a dishonorable discharge. If he came off as cocky, would expect something closer to 40 or 50. If he gets maxed out, then he really went down the wrong path in his sentencing phase, but knowing trial defense counsel, I doubt he came off that bad.