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FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) -- A judge has sentenced Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for giving U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.
A small group of people gathered Wednesday morning outside the gates of Fort Meade, near Baltimore, holding posters that read "Free Bradley Manning." They assembled just hours before a military judge announced Manning's prison sentence.
Prosecutors had asked Army Col. Denise Lind to sentence him to at least 60 years. Manning's defense suggested he should spend no more than 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors portray Manning, now 25, as "the determined insider," an anarchist hacker and traitor who started working within weeks of his 2009 deployment to provide WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange with exactly what they wanted. The government has urged the military judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, to sentence him to 60 years in prison for crimes that include six Espionage Act violations, five theft counts and computer fraud.
Manning and his defense team maintain he was an idealistic soldier with a pure motive -- to expose brutal truths about America's military and diplomatic corps. They say the gay soldier's gender-identity crisis in the "don't ask, don't tell" military reached a crescendo that caused him to act out, mistakenly believing that by pouring secret government documents and video onto the Internet, he could change the way the world viewed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and, perhaps, all wars.
"I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people," Manning said in a courtroom apology last week.
The leaked material included video of a U.S. helicopter attack that killed at least two civilians -- a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The 700,000 leaked documents endangered the lives of U.S. intelligence sources and prompted several ambassadors to be recalled, reassigned or expelled, prosecutors showed.
Manning acknowledged wrongdoing in February and offered to serve up to 20 years in prison for lesser versions of the charged offenses. But prosecutors led by Maj. Ashden Fein sought to hold him accountable for serious crimes, and largely succeeded. Lind convicted Manning July 30 on 20 of the 22 charges. However, prosecutors were unable to prove that Manning aided the enemy, a crime punishable by life in prison.
Military prisoners can earn up to 120 days a year off their sentence for good behavior and job performance, but must serve at least one-third of any prison sentence before they can become eligible for parole.
Manning will get credit for about 3 1/2 years of pretrial confinement, including 112 days for being illegally punished by harsh conditions at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps brig.
He was held at Quantico for nine months, from July 2010 to April 2011, when he was moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Throughout his time at Quantico, he was designated a "maximum custody" detainee and considered at risk of either suicide or harming himself or others. His lawyers asserted he was locked up alone for at least 23 hours a day, forced to sleep naked for several nights and required to stand naked at attention one morning.