FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — The Marine Corps' top correctional administrator said Wednesday that brig officials at Quantico, Va., used improper procedures to recommend that an Army private charged with giving U.S. secrets to the WikiLeaks website be held in maximum custody.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Abel Galaviz testified at a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade. The hearing is to determine whether the nine months that Pfc. Bradley Manning spent in the brig amounted to illegal punishment, possibly warranting dismissal of the case.
Galaviz said the board used an unapproved form to convey its recommendations to the brig commander. He said the board's senior officer improperly filled out the form before the board met.
Further, he said the officer shouldn't have been a board member at all, because his views could influence the others.
The testimony was the strongest evidence the defense has produced to counter the government's claim that the confinement conditions were proper.
Nevertheless, Galaviz concluded that the brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Averhart, was justified in keeping Manning in maximum custody.
Earlier Wednesday, a former supervisor of the brig denied Wednesday that he was making light of Manning's homosexuality when he referred to the soldier's underwear as "panties" in a staff memo.
Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brian Papakie testified as a prosecution witness on the seventh day of the pretrial hearing. The military contends Manning had to be confined to his 8-by-6-foot cell at least 23 hours a day, sometimes without clothing, to prevent him from hurting or killing himself during his confinement from July 2010 to April 2011.
Papakie testified on cross-examination about a memo he wrote after the brig commander ordered Manning stripped of his underwear each night starting March 2, 2011. Manning stood naked at attention for a prisoner count the next morning, causing a stir that prompted Papakie to write an email to ensure it didn't happen again.
"Make sure he is not standing at attention naked for evening count right before taps. You should be taking his panties right before he lays down," Papakie wrote.
Under questioning by defense attorney David Coombs, Papakie said he uses the word interchangeably with "skivvies" and "underwear" when discussing men's undershorts.
"I've always used the phrase, 'Don't get my panties in a bunch,' which is what I tell the staff all the time," he said.
Papakie acknowledged that he knew Manning was gay but said he didn't consider the word "panties" homophobic. He conceded that it was not professional to use the term in a memo.
Papakie followed another witness, Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis, who testified Sunday that Manning's sexual orientation was among the factors that led him to recommend Manning remain on injury-prevention status despite two psychiatrists' repeated recommendations that his conditions be eased.