FORT MEADE, Md. -- Bradley Manning's lawyer told supporters in a candid question-and-answer session on Friday that he thinks little of the classified sentencing evidence that prosecutors have presented in closed court.
David Coombs' talk in the antechamber to the courtroom where Manning faces up to 90 years in prison for sending government documents to WikiLeaks was a rare look into the low-profile attorney's defense strategy. After two and a half months of trial, Coombs told the two-dozen supporters gathered that he expects a sentence to be delivered on Tuesday.
Manning delivered a three-minute apology to the military judge overseeing his court martial Wednesday, saying, "I am sorry. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I am sorry that it hurt the United States." But just what Manning was apologizing for was unclear, since hours of the prosecution's classified testimony that Manning's leaks caused actual harm or damage have been delivered behind closed doors.
Asked about the classified testimony, which could be a crucial factor in the sentence Manning receives, Coombs said, "I know what it is, and I sleep soundly at night."
Coombs also said "there really wasn't that much information that came out" during the two weeks of testimony from the prosecution's sentencing witnesses.
Supporters listened intently to Coombs and applauded, thanking him for his work on Manning's behalf.
Manning's statement on Wednesday was far more apologetic in tone than a pre-trial statement he made on Feb. 28, which cited a U.S. helicopter crew's "bloodlust" as one of the things that had motivated him to leak information.
Coombs said those looking to square the two statements should read the writing of independent journalist Alexa O'Brien ("AOB as I affectionately call her"). O'Brien argued in a piece for The Guardian that the two statements were ethically "consistent."
Manning acknowledged in February that he was "not the right pay-grade to make these decisions" about releasing classified information. But that does not mean he did not see himself as acting in the public interest: On Wednesday, a forensic psychiatrist testifying for the defense said Manning was "under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and future wars, actually."
After the forensic psychiatrist, Capt. David Moulton, left the stand, Manning listened to hours of testimony from his sister and aunt about his traumatic upbringing in a house with two alcoholic parents.
Coombs, who often confers with his client by whispers in court, said Manning was in "good spirits" after that "tough day" of testimony. When a supporter expressed her hope that Manning would be let off with time served, his reaction was to smile faintly.