FORT MEADE, Md. — Some workers at a Marine Corps brig housing a soldier charged with sending U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks became annoyed at a demonstration on his behalf the day before a confrontation that led to tighter restrictions on him, a former guard testified Saturday.
The testimony by former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan Cline undercut government efforts to show that Pfc. Bradley Manning’s tight confinement conditions were justified to prevent him from killing or hurting himself. The defense claims the nine months Manning spent in virtual isolation, sometimes without clothing, amounted to illegal pretrial punishment. Manning and his attorneys want all the charges dismissed.
Cline testified on the fifth day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore.
He was called as a prosecution witness to talk about a Jan. 18, 2011, incident in which Manning hid behind an exercise machine and wept after he was scolded by another guard for failing to respond properly to a command. Later that day, the brig commander, Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Averhart, added “suicide risk” to Manning’s maximum-custody conditions. That was after they had what Manning described as a heated argument about the incident.
Manning testified Thursday that the guards seemed angry that morning as they escorted him in leg irons and handcuffs to an exercise room. He said their attitude made him nervous, culminating in his odd behavior.
“I thought I was going to be attacked or assaulted or something like that,” Manning said.
Cline testified that some brig workers were annoyed that a pro-Manning protest a day earlier had closed Quantico’s main gate, forcing them to take alternate routes home. Cline said he wasn’t personally affected by it. Defense attorney David Coombs has implied the guards took out their irritation on Manning by bullying him.
Cline and another former guard, Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Tankersly, both testified that except for the Jan. 18 incident, Manning was always compliant and respectful.
Another former brig worker, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William Fuller, testified that Manning was often uncommunicative and withdrawn, possibly signaling a suicide risk.