Army Private Offers Plea In WikiLeaks Case

Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 2:21pm

(CNN) -- The Army private accused of leaking millions of government files has offered to plead guilty to some of the charges against him, his attorney announced during a court hearing Wednesday.

But this is not some kind of deal guaranteed to get Pfc. Bradley Manning a lighter sentence.

"It's definitely not a plea bargain, what he's trying to do is, I guess, lure the government into tolerating this plea and not putting on evidence of those things that he is not pleading to," said Eugene Fidell, a military law expert who teaches at Yale Law School.

But this kind of plea offer does not come with a quid pro quo deal with prosecutors. "He could do this and the government could say, 'That's is all well and good, but we're going to continue to put on our case on the graver charges,'" Fidell said.

That could lead to him being found guilty of aiding the enemy, which could result in a sentence of life in prison.

David Coombs, Manning's lead attorney, may be hoping that this deal helps down the road.

"There's an advantage to showing that you are accepting responsibility for your acts," Fidell said.

Manning also announced that he doesn't want a jury, or a panel as the military calls it, to decide his fate during the court martial. He's asking the judge to do that.

"He didn't want to roll the dice with a jury. Juries can sometimes hammer people in ways that military judges won't," Fidell said.

Manning has been jailed for more than two years on allegations that he downloaded hundreds of thousands of pages of documents while serving as a military intelligence analyst in Iraq and handed that trove to the website WikiLeaks.

The plea offer was made in a hearing held Wednesday, Coombs, wrote on his firm's website.

WikiLeaks has never confirmed that Manning was the source of the documents, which the site began publishing in 2010. He has been accused of wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it was accessible to the enemy and multiple counts of theft of public records.

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