U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, accused of the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, defers a plea in a military court arraignment, marking the first step in a court-martial that could land him in prison for life.
FORT MEADE, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 23, 2012) (REUTERS) -Bradley Manning, the suspected source of the largest leak of classified U.S. documents in history, deferred his plea to all charges against him, during arraignment proceedings at a court in Fort Meade, Maryland on Thursday (February 23). He also deferred his decision on whether to be tried by a military judge or a military jury.
Manning's plea deferral allows his defense team time to strategize and see the outcome of several motions to be heard before the trial begins, which could be as late as August.
Manning was formally charged with 22 counts including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet and theft of public property.
Manning, 24, sat quietly in the courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland, wearing his Class A dress greens , dark-rimmed glasses and a short haircut during the hearing.
Seated with him were his two military lawyers, Major Matthew Kemkes and Captain Paul Bouchard , and his civilian lawyer David Coombs
He is accused of downloading more than 700,000 classified or confidential files from the military's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, while serving in Iraq.
Those files are thought to be the source of documents that appeared on WikiLeaks, which promotes the leaking of government and corporate information.
The prosecution has portrayed Manning as a trained and trusted analyst who knowingly committed criminal acts when he allegedly passed the documents to WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors have sought to link Manning to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, introducing logs of web chats that an investigator said appeared to show conversations in which the two discuss sending government documents.
Aiding the enemy is an offense that could bring the death penalty, but the prosecution has said it intends to seek a maximum of life in prison for Manning.
Manning's lawyers have portrayed him as an emotionally troubled young man whose behavioral problems should have prompted superiors to revoke his access to classified information.
A trial date was not set. The defense requested a trial date no later than June, but the prosecution has asked for the trial to open on August 3rd.
The next court session is scheduled for March 15 and 16
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