FORT MEADE, Md. — 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 and appeared not to react when military judge Col. Denise Lind announced the punishment during a brief hearing. Among the spectators, there was a gasp, and one woman put her hands up, covering her face.
"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.
But the judge acquitted him of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, an offense that could have meant life in prison without parole.
Manning could have gotten 90 years behind bars. Prosecutors asked for at least 60 years 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.
Manning will get credit for the more than three years he has been held, but he'll have to serve at least one-third of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.
The native of Crescent, Okla., 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.
He also leaked video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that mistakenly killed at least nine people, including a Reuters photographer.
A potentially more explosive leak case unfolded as Manning's court-martial was underway, when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was charged with espionage for exposing the NSA's Internet and telephone surveillance programs.
At his trial, Manning said he gave the material to the secrets-spilling website WikiLeaks to expose the U.S. military's "bloodlust" and generate debate over the wars and U.S. policy.
During the sentencing phase, he apologized for the damage he caused, saying, "When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people."
His lawyers also argued that Manning suffered extreme inner turmoil over his gender identity — his feeling that he was a woman trapped in a man's body — while serving in the macho military, which at the time barred gays from serving openly. Among the evidence was a photo of him in a blond wig and lipstick.