Col. Denise Lind's ruling cuts Manning's possible maximum punishment for his massive leak of classified documents from 136 years in prison to 90 years, Courthouse News Service reported. If he gets even the reduced maximum, the 25-year-old soldier could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Manning's lawyers argued Monday at Fort Meade in Maryland that prosecutors had charged him three times over for what was basically one act: stealing classified material, possessing it and then sending it to WikiLeaks. David Coombs, a defense lawyer, said the prosecution had engaged in "an unreasonable multiplication of charges."
Maj. Ashenden Fein, the chief prosecutor, argued that in at least one case Manning downloaded material, 70,000 email addresses for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, that he did not release. Fein said that Manning had a choice once he had accessed material whether to pass it on -- creating separate crimes.
Lind agreed to merge some counts for sentencing but found no overreach by the prosecutors.
Manning was convicted last week of violations of the Espionage Act. But Lind acquitted him of aiding the enemy, which would have meant an automatic sentence of life without parole.
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