Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in one of the nation's biggest leak cases since the Pentagon Papers more than a generation ago.
Flanked by his lawyers, Manning, 25, stood at attention in his dress uniform and showed no reaction as military judge Col. Denise Lind announced the punishment without explanation during a brief hearing.
Among the spectators, there was a gasp, and one woman buried her face in her hands.
"I'm shocked. I did not think she would do that," said Manning supporter Jim Holland, of San Diego. "Thirty-five years, my Lord."
The former intelligence analyst was found guilty last month of 20 crimes, including six violations of the Espionage Act, as part of the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on media leaks. He was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, an offense that could have meant life in prison without parole.
Wikileaks said Mannin's jail term was a "strategic victory" as it meant he was eligible for parole in less than nine years. "Significant strategic victory in Bradley Manning case," WikiLeaks said on its official Twitter feed. "Bradley Manning now eligible for release in less than 9 years, 4.4 in one calculation."
Manning could have gotten 90 years behind bars. Prosecutors asked for at least 60 as a warning to other soldiers, while Manning's lawyer suggested he get no more than 25, because some of the documents he leaked will be declassified by then.
He will get credit for the more than three years he has been held but will have to serve at least one-third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He was also demoted to private and dishonorably discharged.
After the judge imposed the sentence, guards hurried Manning out of the courtroom as about a half-dozen supporters shouted from the back: "We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley!" and "You're our hero!"
Prosecutors had no immediate comment, while the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and other activists decried the punishment.
"When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system," said Ben Wizner, head of the ACLU's speech and technology project.
Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute think tank and author of the book "Necessary Secrets," welcomed Manning's punishment.
"The sentence is a tragedy for Bradley Manning, but it is one he brought upon himself," he said. "It will certainly serve to bolster deterrence against other potential leakers."
But he also warned that the sentence will ensure that Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker who has taken refuge in Russia, "will do his best never to return to the United States and face a trial and stiff sentence."
Manning digitally copied and released more than 700,000 documents, including Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield reports and State Department cables, while working in 2010 in Iraq.
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