Bradley Manning, an Army private who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, was found not guilty of the most serious charge against him — aiding the enemy — although a military judge found him guilty of several other charges.
The aiding the enemy charge carried a potential sentence of life in prison without parole.
Col. Denise Lind, the military judge in the case, made the ruling at Fort Meade, Md., Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Manning had requested that a judge, not a jury, weigh the charges against him and determine a verdict.
Even though Manning supporters quickly declared the verdict a vindication, Lind still found the 25-year-old private guilty on five counts of theft and five counts of espionage. He had faced a total of 21 charges.
The former low-level intelligence analyst has acknowledged handing 700,000 battlefield reports, cables and videos over to WikiLeaks but maintained that he didn’t believe the largely classified information would harm troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, or weaken U.S. national security.
The information released included footage of a U.S. Army helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007 that killed at least nine men, including a reporter for Reuters. It also provided evidence that the U.S. was only mildly supporting the government in Tunisia — a revelation that Manning’s supporters argue helped spur rebels in the country to rise up — and helped launch the Arab Spring movement.
In closing remarks, military prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein, depicted Manning as a traitor who joined the Army with the sole purpose of stealing government documents, make them public and become a world-renown whistleblower.
But Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, painted the picture of a troubled soldier who was suffering from the stress of what he witnessed while deployed in Iraq. He also said Manning was struggling to serve as a gay man before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Manning, who has been held in military jails since his arrest in 2010, had pleaded guilty in February to charges that he has misused classified information, charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The Military District of Washington still must review the verdict and the sentence. A hearing to determine Manning’s sentence is set to begin Wednesday.
Washington Examiner wire services contributed to this report.