FORT MEADE, Md. (AP/WJLA) - 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 without explanation 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. His rank was reduced to private, he was dishonorably discharged and he forfeited his pay.
Before announcing the sentence, Lind warned spectators against any outbursts, saying she would stop the proceedings and expel anyone creating a disturbance, as she has in the past.
She had barely stepped out of the room when guards hurried Manning out through a front entrance and some half-dozen supporters shouted from the back of the room: "We'll keep fighting for you, Bradley" and "You're our hero."
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.
Mannings’ attorney continues to defend him.
“He looks to me and he says, ‘It’s ok. I'm going to be ok. I'm going to get through this," says his attorney David Coombs.
But some of Manning’s supporters who were inside the courtroom were more vocal in their reaction to the 35 year prison sentence.
“Heartbroken, disappointed, some people were crying because they know it’s a great injustice not just for Bradley Manning but it's a dark mark on the United States,” says one supporter.