FORT MEADE, Md. — Pfc. Bradley Manning took the stand Wednesday at his sentencing hearing in the WikiLeaks case and apologized for hurting his country, pleading with a military judge for a chance to go to college and become a productive citizen.
He addressed the court on a day of often emotional testimony from family members about his troubled childhood and from a psychologist who said Manning felt extreme mental pressure in the “hyper-masculine” military because of his gender-identity disorder — his feeling that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body.
“I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States,” he said as he began.
The soldier said that he understood what he was doing but that he did not believe at the time that leaking a mountain of classified information to the anti-secrecy website would cause harm to the U.S.
Though he often showed little reaction to court proceedings during most of the court-martial, he appeared to struggle to contain his emotions several times Wednesday during testimony from his sister, an aunt and two mental health counselors, one who treated him and another who diagnosed him with several problems.
Manning, 25, could be sentenced to 90 years in prison for the leaks, which occurred while he was working as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. The judge will impose the sentence. The next session, for any prosecution rebuttal testimony, is set for Friday.
Manning took only a few minutes to make his statement Wednesday. He appeared to be reading it from papers he was holding. It was an unsworn statement, meaning he could not be cross-examined.