- Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was sent to jail again on Friday after refusing to testify in front of a grand jury probing WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, according to multiple news outlets.
- Manning’s attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen told INSIDER that she could serve up to 18 months in prison despite facing no criminal charges.
- Manning’s jailing was part of a civil contempt sanction, which the Justice Department says is “designed to compel future compliance with a court order” and “coercive and avoidable through obedience.”
- Meltzer-Cohen said the tactic was a form of “coercion” meant to prod Manning into testifying.
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, a former US Army analyst who leaked troves classified information to WikiLeaks, was jailed again on Friday after she refused to testify in front of a grand jury that is reportedly probing WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, according to numerous news outlets.
Despite being accused of no crime, Manning faces up to 18 months in jail as part of a civil contempt sanction.
“Chelsea can be incarcerated for the remainder of the grand jury [up to 18 months], and the term of the grand jury can be extended by six months,” Manning’s attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen told INSIDER.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen said Manning was held in contempt of court under the “the recalcitrant witness statute,” which specifically pertains to “someone who is refusing to give testimony before a grand jury.”
Despite being accused of no crime, the statute allows individuals to be confined “in a ‘suitable place,'” for no more than 18 months, while the grand jury is underway.
“The only lawful purpose for such confinement is to coerce them to change their mind and give testimony. So they can’t be punished for a refusal to testify, but they may be ‘civilly confined’ to see if they will agree to change their mind and give testimony,” said Meltzer-Cohen.
“Today’s decision was not unexpected, but it’s an appealable order,” she continued.
The Justice Department’s website echoes Meltzer-Cohen, saying, “civil contempt sanctions – which are designed to compel future compliance with a court order – are coercive and avoidable through obedience, and ‘thus may be imposed in an ordinary civil proceeding upon notice and an opportunity to be heard. Neither a jury trial nor proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required.'”
In a statement, Manning said she refused to answer the questions of the grand jury, whose proceedings are under seal. In response to each question, she said she answered, “I object to the question and refuse to answer on the grounds that the question is in violation of my First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendment, and other statutory rights.”
“All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010 – answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013,” her statement continued.
WikiLeaks alleged in January that federal prosecutors have been working to secure testimony for a grand jury pertaining to criminal charges being levied by the Trump administration.
In a statement, Manning’s support committee, Chelsea Resists, called the ruling punitive, and pointed to previous statements from President Donald Trump about Manning, saying, “It is no secret that members of the current administration have openly expressed their hatred for Chelsea. Donald Trump himself has tweeted about his desire to undo Barack Obama’s commutation and put Chelsea back in jail.”
The judge rejected Manning’s lawyer’s request that she be confined at home due to medical and safety concerns.
“It has always been our intent and hope for her to testify and comply with the valid court order and valid grand jury investigation,” federal prosecutor Tracy Doherty-McCormick said in a statement relayed to The New York Times. “Ms. Manning could change her mind right now and do so. It is her choice. This is a rule of law issue, and Ms. Manning is not above the law.”
Manning isn’t the first high-profile person to face jail after allegations of civil contempt. Susan McDougal spent 18 months in jail after she refused to answer three questions pertaining to the Whitewater scandal that surrounded President Bill Clinton, according to CNN.
In 2006, Greg F. Anderson, personal trainer to then-San Francisco Giants’ player Barry Bonds, was held in contempt twice after refusing to testify for two different grand juries investigating perjury charges against Bonds. Anderson was held in jail for over a year until Bonds was indicted in 2007.
In February, an appeals court sided with a lower court in ruling that Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller was in contempt for refusing to testify in front of a Mueller grand jury, according to CNN. It’s not clear whether Miller will testify, continue to fight the subpoena, or be jailed.
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