Marine brig officials grilled about GI's jailing

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm •  Published: December 6, 2012
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The Marine Corps chief of corrections, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Abel Galaviz, testified Wednesday that Averhart violated the regulation twice — once in August 2010 for five days and once in January 2011 for two days — after psychiatrists recommended that Manning's handling instructions be relaxed from "suicide risk" to "prevention of injury."

Prisoners on suicide risk are allowed little if any clothing at night and denied even basic overnight amenities, including toilet paper and soap. Manning had to ask a guard for those items.

Averhart also testified on cross-examination that he "misarticulated" a written instruction to a senior brig staff member in late December 2010, directing that Manning remain in maximum custody and on injury-prevention status until the conclusion of his so-called "sanity board." A sanity board is a routine military pretrial proceeding to assess a defendant's mental health. Manning's sanity board issued its final report April 22, 2011, two days after he was moved to Fort Leavenworth.

The ex-brig commander said the directive wasn't an order, but Galaviz testified Wednesday that it sounded like one. Galaviz said the directive could have prejudiced the brig staff members on an in-house board that made confinement recommendations to Averhart.

Averhart testified that when he wrote the memo, he thought Manning's sanity board would convene within weeks. He said he meant to convey that Manning's status would be reviewed after the hearing.

"I misarticulated what that statement should have said," Averhart said. "If I could go back in time and change it, I would."

Averhart testified that he put Manning on suicide watch Jan. 18, 2011, after Manning punched himself in the head during a heated discussion about his restrictions. Averhart had gone to Manning's cell after hearing the soldier had suffered what the defense has characterized as an anxiety attack.

"All I wanted to ensure was that this young man did not hurt himself," Averhart said. "I saw the look in detainee Manning's face. I saw him strike himself in the manner that I did and I wanted to review him."

He also testified that pretrial detainees were supposed to have been kept in the brig for up to 90 days — not nine months — under an agreement with the Defense Department.

The government must prove by a preponderance of evidence that brig officials justifiably believed the strict conditions were needed to keep Manning from hurting or killing himself. The hearing resumes Friday and is scheduled to run through Dec. 12, with Saturday and Sunday off.

Manning, a 24-year-old native of Crescent, Okla., is charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He's accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He's also charged with leaking a 2007 video clip of a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 men later found to have included a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The Pentagon concluded the troops acted appropriately, having mistaken the camera equipment for weapons.