FORT MEADE, Md. -- Speaking to reporters just hours after his client was sentenced to 35 years in prison, Bradley Manning's lawyer revealed on Wednesday that military prosecutors offered his client a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. But that deal involved a longer sentence than the 35 years Manning ultimately received, said defense attorney David Coombs, and "part of that would be to cooperate in testifying, so obviously we didn't do that."
Plea negotiations were confidential, and Coombs did not say explicitly that prosecutors had been seeking testimony against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. However, there is little else Manning would have had to offer. And Coombs has previously stated that the government was trying to force his client to act as a witness against Assange in a plea deal, but had not revealed the terms of that offer.
A request for comment from the prosecutors' office was not immediately returned.
Throughout the trial, military prosecutors treated Assange as a virtual co-conspirator in Manning's charged crimes, pointing to chat logs between Manning and a man they allege was Assange. But Manning's defense team steadfastly maintained that Manning made his leaks of his own accord.
Manning, 25, gave WikiLeaks 700,000 sensitive government files documenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the trial, prosecutors asserted that he was fascinated by the anti-secrecy organization, creating a text file with contact information for Assange almost as soon as he was deployed.
A grand jury in Northern Virginia is currently conducting an investigation into WikiLeaks for its role in Manning's leaks, and Assange's U.S. lawyer Michael Ratner has said he believes there may be a sealed indictment against his client.
"This should be a real wake-up call for journalists: The U.S. has been relentless in its pursuit of Assange," Ratner said in response to the apparent deal.
"The idea that WikiLeaks or Julian Assange or anyone else forced my client to do anything, or asked him to do anything, is just pure fabrication," Coombs said Wednesday.
In a statement issued shortly after Manning's verdict was announced, Assange said that Manning's sentence represented "a significant tactical victory for Bradley Manning's defense, campaign team and supporters."