As you may recall, back in March we learned that Chelsea Manning was back in jail on contempt charges for failing to answer questions before a grand jury looking into the affairs of Julian Assange, among other things. At the time, the judge decided to add a bit more “persuasion” to the equation by imposing fines for every day that Manning maintained her silence. The fines started at $500 per day and increased to $1,000 per day after one month. That was roughly five months ago, so as you could imagine, the fines have grown substantially and continue to increase by approximately $30K per month. Considering that the jury could be impaneled for as much as 18 months, the final bill could easily go well past a half million.
With this in mind, Manning’s attorneys asked for a new hearing where they would ask that the fines be dismissed. As it turns out, the judge is in no mood for any of this and has flatly rejected the request. (WaPo)
Chelsea Manning will not get a hearing to challenge steep daily penalties imposed for her refusal to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
In an order issued Monday, Judge Anthony J. Trenga in Alexandria federal court said there were no “reasonable grounds” to reconsider his decision to impose the fines, which started at $500 per day and have now risen to $1,000. Manning, 31, who was first jailed in March for refusing to testify, could be in jail for up to 18 months, and her attorneys estimate that the total cost will be close to half a million dollars.
Her attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said Manning “expects to remain” in jail for about 400 more days. She added that while they are “evaluating our legal options . . . above all right now we are all working to strategize for her long-term health and welfare.”
This stunt is getting expensive quickly. In case you’re curious, the grounds Manning’s attorneys used in asking for the dismissal of the fines was that she wouldn’t be able to pay them. Now, I’m no attorney (and I don’t even play one on television), but I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. The defendant’s ability to pay is likely a factor taken into consideration for low-level crimes at the county courthouse, but not a grand jury considering matters of national security. Manning will have to be released when the jury is dismissed, but the fines will still remain.
The dumbfounding part of all of this is that it’s so completely unnecessary. Manning can’t be tried a second time for her original crimes against the nation and was given full immunity regarding any testimony provided before the grand jury. She has literally nothing to lose here. Her claim that she has no additional information about Assange, Wikileaks or anything else that she didn’t provide during the original trial is also irrelevant. If that’s the case, then take a seat and truthfully answer additional questions by saying you don’t know. (Unless, of course, you’re lying about that and suspect the government has evidence to prove it.) When the questioning is complete you can simply go home. If you did it soon, I’d be willing to bet the judge would at least consider dismissing or lowering the fines.
But everything is a circus with Chelsea Manning. It has to be all drama all the time so she can play the beleaguered victim fighting for social justice or something. The same could be said of her abject failure of a Senate campaign. So I suppose we’ll just stick with the status quo and Manning will continue to chill out in jail until the grand jury is dismissed. And then she can figure out where she’s going to come up with half a million dollars. Maybe Tom Steyer can front it to her.