Bradley Manning’s Lawyer Moves to Have All Charges Dropped
Bradley Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, filed a 117-page motion calling for dismissal of all charges with prejudice. Citing a lack of a speedy trial with the reason for his motion, he lays out an impressive case about how the government has calculated to delay Bradley Manning’s trial and to undermine his due process rights. He will have the opportunity to argue for the motion at Ft. Meade, October 29-November 2. By then, Manning will have sat in pre-trial confinement for nearly 900 days. By the time of his trial, in February, he will have been locked up in a cage for nearly 1,000 days.
This represents Coombs’ longest motion of the trial thus far, and he is arguing for dismissal of all charges. In the document, he details PFC Manning’s illegal pretrial confinement. The prosecution has repeatedly delayed the trial to the point at which “PFC Manning’s statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights have been trampled upon with impunity.”
The motion was introduced on Coombs’ blog on September 27, 2012. He discusses primarily the length of imprisonment thus far for the 24-year old soldier accused of providing WikiLeaks with classified information. As of September 27, 2012, Manning had been in pretrial confinement for 845 days. The trial is scheduled to commence on February 4, 2013, when Manning will have been in pretrial incarceration for 983 days before hearing any evidence against him.
The Rule for Court Martial (RCM) 707 allows 120 days from arrest to arraignment to constitute a speed trial. Bradley was arraigned two years after his arrested and will have been in jail nearly 1,000 days if his court-martial indeed does begin on February 4, 2013.
There is no reason for the delay, Coombs argues:
The processing of this case has been marred with prosecutorial incompetence and a profound lack of Government diligence. The combination has led to an abject failure of the Government to honor PFC Manning’s fundamental speedy trial rights… For these reasons, the Defense requests this Court to dismiss all charges and specifications with prejudice.
The first speedy trial protest filed on Bradley’s behalf was January 13, 2011. All delays have been since protested. The prosecution has still successfully slowed the process to a crawl. 2011 was marked by delay after delay on behalf of the prosecution, so much so that Coombs called the routine delay requests the government’s “get-out-of-due-diligence-free” cards, for the Convening Authority did not acknowledge the defense’s objections and refused to credit these delays to the government, instead repeatedly calling them “excludable delays,” oft without justification.
The Convening Authority, therefore, is just as much at fault for the lack of a speedy trial as is the prosecution. He wrote: “The Convening Authority abandoned any attempt to make an independent determination of the reasonableness of any Government delay request. Instead, the Convening Authority operated as a mere rubber stamp by granting all delay requests.”
In his document, Coombs details the prosecution’s long and repeated discovery delays, including its most recent withholding of emails: “To hold that the Government’s discovery conduct has been reasonably diligent would make a complete mockery of that phrase,” he says. The prosecution having withheld evidence against Bradley has led to the defense having to request delays. Coombs had an Article 13 motion set, when, the night before, the government produced 84 new emails, leading to Coombs needing to push back the Article 13 motion from August to November. The government had had the emails for six months before releasing them.
Coombs had predicted this very scenario would occur:
How the Government could have waited so long to look at these emails which should have been produced as part of its discovery obligations is beyond me. The fact that the Government is now trying to hold the Defense to a time line of today when the need for a delay is due to their lack of diligence is unbelievable. The Defense has repeated since referral its concern that information would be dumped on us on the eve of trial. This is [a] perfect example of the Defense’s concerns coming to fruition.
A speedy trial is a fundamental, legal right, according to Coombs. He cites Article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the RCM 707 (essentially the 6th Amendment to the Constitution).
According to Coombs:
532 days have been excluded by the Convening Authority and the Article 32 IO. This Motion does not challenge 205 days of those excluded days…. Subtracting those 205 unchallenged days from the 635 total days, the Convening Authority and the Article 32 IO excluded 327 days of the 430 remaining days. Those exclusions amount to a total of over 76% of the 430 days.
The 845 days PFC Manning has already spent in pretrial confinement dwarfs other periods of pretrial confinement that the Court of Appeals found to be facially unreasonable, and it is plainly sufficient to trigger the analysis into the remaining factors in the Article 10 framework. Indeed, the Defense has found no reported military case involving a period of delay even close to the 845 delay in this case.
The Government cannot be given a free pass on the reasonable diligence inquiry simply by asserting the complexity of the case, especially when it has charged the case in such a complex manner that necessitated delay in the proceedings to allow the Government to mull over how it can make the proof fit its lofty and imaginative charging decision…. PFC Manning’s speedy trial rights cannot hinge upon the unfortunate circumstance of having an imaginative prosecutor assigned to his case.
There is no reason for the delays, mostly made to gather evidence:
PFC Manning is not being sued by some tired, overworked attorney in a shabby office; he is being prosecuted by the United States of America, which has full command of an arsenal of resources. Five full-time prosecutors are assigned to this case. Many more SJA attorneys [Staff Judge Advocates] and paralegals may be summoned for further assistance at a moment’s notice.
Every conceivable excuse offered by the Government is simply a red herring designed to detract this Court’s attention from the ugly truth of this case: the Government was operating for almost two years under a profound misunderstanding of its bedrock discovery obligations and the Government was incredibly lethargic in processing this case on all fronts. All the excuses under the sun fail to justify why, after PFC Manning has spent 845 days in pretrial confinement, the Government is still not ready for trial.
Coomb’s also writes: “A military accused’s right to speedy trial is fundamental. The Government’s process of this case makes an absolute mockery of that fundamental right.”
Indeed, the Judge, Judge Lind, has agreed that the government is falling short of its due diligence obligations. But, Coombs makes the case that this has been a calculated effort by the prosecution to delay Manning’s trial and overlook his due process rights. Coombs lays out a serious motion to “dismiss all charges and specifications with prejudice.” He will discuss witnesses in support of this motion in front of Judge Lind October 17-18, as well as October 29-November 2 to further make the case.