"PFC Manning's Offered Plea and Forum Selection"
"PFC Manning has offered to plead guilty to various offenses through a process known as 'pleading by exceptions and substitutions.' "
"To clarify, PFC Manning is not pleading guilty to the specifications as charged by the Government. Rather, PFC Manning is attempting to accept responsibility for offenses that are encapsulated within, or are a subset of, the charged offenses. The Court will consider whether this is a permissible plea."
"PFC Manning is not submitting a plea as part of an agreement or deal with the Government. Further, the Government does not need to agree to PFC Manning's plea; the Court simply has to determine that the plea is legally permissible."
"If the Court allows PFC Manning to plead guilty by exceptions and substitutions, the Government may still elect to prove up the charged offenses."
"Pleading by exceptions and substitutions, in other words, does not change the offenses with which PFC Manning has been charged and for which he is scheduled to stand trial."
"PFC Manning has also provided notice of his forum selection. He has elected to be tried by Military Judge alone."
In other words, Coombs made this offer for Manning. In return, he hopes more serious charges will be dropped or lessened. He awaits word from the court. If willingness is expressed, a traditional plea bargain may follow.
Spokesman for the Bradley Manning Support Network Nathan Fuller said it's "very premature" to speculate whether prosecutors will show leniency. Given how harshly Manning's been treated, it appears a long shot at best, but can't be ruled out.
Manning is world renown. Many distinguished figures and others support him. Pentagon officials may decide to make it appear they're showing some leniency.
Trial proceedings are expected to last six weeks. Manning chose to be tried by a military judge alone instead of a jury of military officers. Nothing will be known for sure until the judge rules. He has marching orders and will do what he's told.
Coombs said Manning will plead guilty to lesser charges alone. Perhaps by late November, some indication of court sentiment will be known.
Law Professor Eugene Fidell represents defendants in court-martial case. He was puzzled by Coombs' move. He said it's unusual to plead guilty without benefit of a pretrial agreement assuring something in return.
At the same time, Manning hopes court leniency may follow. Cooperating to save government time and expense may help.
It's hard to know after authorities invested enormous effort and expense to make an example of him. At issue is deterring other whistleblowers. Going soft might encourage them.