Patrick Semansky / AP
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, center, is escorted to a security vehicle outside a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., last week.
FORT MEADE, Md. — Lawyers for Bradley Manning don't want the judge sentencing him to “rob him of his youth.” The military wants to send him to prison for 60 years.
On Wednesday morning, the soldier who leaked 700,000 secret government documents will learn his fate.
Army Col. Denise Lind, presiding over Manning’s court-martial, will impose the sentence in a courtroom here. The announcement is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET.
Manning, now 25, was a private first class working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq three years ago when he carried out the largest leak of documents in American history — sending WikiLeaks a trove that included battlefield reports.
Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, said he expects Manning to get at least 10 years — although he cautioned that it's impossible to know what the judge is thinking and “any who claims they can pinpoint it is making it up.”
He said the judge would consider both Manning’s actions and the potential deterrent against future leaks.
The latter will likely weigh more heavily on her mind than it otherwise might, said Fidell, because of the furor over National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
“No one in her position could be blind to the fact that there are other people who are out there in a position to do the same thing,” he said. “It’s not rocket science.”
In July, the judge convicted Manning of espionage, releasing classified information, disobeying orders and leaking intelligence knowing that it would be accessible to the enemy.
He was acquitted of a more serious charge, aiding the enemy, which carried a potential life sentence.
The young soldier told the judge last week that he was sorry for what he did, and for hurting the United States.
“When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people,” he said. “The last few years have been a learning experience.”
He said he hoped one day to be a positive influence for his family, attend college and be a better person. But he added: “I understand I must pay a price for my decisions.”
Manning has said that he was disillusioned by American conduct in Iraq and wanted to know the truth about the U.S.-led wars there and in Afghanistan. His lawyer has said he was simply young and naïve.
“He’s a little geeky at times. But he’s caring, he’s compassionate,” defense lawyer David Coombs said last week in court. “This is a young man who is capable of being redeemed. We should not rob him of his youth.”
A prosecutor, Capt. Joe Morrow, had said: “He betrayed the United States.”
Regardless of the sentence, Fidell said, Manning’s case is likely to be tied up for years in appeals.
Erin McClam reported from New York. Reuters contributed to this report.
First published August 20 2013, 12:12 PM