After attempting suicide twice following stints in solitary confinement, Chelsea Manning formally petitioned President Barack Obama to commute her sentence. The petition surpassed the 100,000 signature mark required to receive a response from the White House, and now it looks like she may get a favorable one.
NBC News reports that Manning’s sentence may be reduced to time served as soon as today. A Justice Department source told them that she has been moved to Obama’s “short list” for commutation and that a decision is imminent. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking 700,000 military files and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. The sentence is unusually long, and some believe she was used as an example or scapegoat, as the scandal around Edward Snowden was unfolding at the same time. At the time of her sentencing, Manning accepted full responsibility for her crimes:
“I’m sorry,” Manning said. “I’m sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States.”
“I understand that I must pay the price for my decisions and actions,” Manning added.
Those words of contrition did not sway the military judge, who gave Manning a sentence about 10 times longer than those of recent whistle-blowers.
“After this case, I had to tell Chelsea — ‘I’ve represented murderers. I’ve represented rapists. I’ve represented child molesters. And none of them received 35 years,’” defense lawyer David Coombs told NBC News.
Manning’s aunt, Deborah Manning, told NBC News that she believes Manning’s remorse, her struggle with her gender identity and the difficulty of being transgender in the army should be taken into account by Obama. She explains, “I would say this is someone who’s never had a chance in life, who is extremely bright, who became extremely emotionally distressed as some point, who made a bad decision, who paid for that bad decision,” adding, “And it’s time to let her go out and try to make a positive contribution in the world.”