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Chelsea Manning Found Guilty Over 'Contraband' — But Won’t Face Solitary Confinement

Manning was found guilty of possessing expired toothpaste, as well as banned reading material that included the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair.

by VICE News
Aug 19 2015, 12:30am

AP Photo/US Army, File

Chelsea Manning, the former US Army soldier who received a 35-year sentence in military prison for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks, has been found guilty again, this time for possessing unapproved reading material and expired toothpaste.

According to a tweet sent from Manning's official account, she was found guilty on all four charges she faced, but will avoid the indefinite solitary confinement that she reportedly could have received as a possible punishment.

Manning, 25, is being held at the Army's Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas. The latest charges stemmed from the discovery of an expired tube of anti-cavity toothpaste in her cell following a routine inspection. Because the toothpaste was expired, Manning faced charges for "medicine misuse," which Nancy Hollander, the attorney working on Manning's appeal, decried as "utterly ridiculous."

The former Army private was also charged with possessing "prohibited property" for reading material found in her cell. The banned literature including the issue of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai's book I am Malala, and LGBT magazines.

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Lastly, Manning was charged with "disrespect" and "disorderly conduct" after she allegedly swept her food onto the floor.

"I was found guilty of all four charges at today's board; I am receiving 21 days of restrictions on recreation — no gym, library or outdoors," Manning said on Twitter.

Just days before the hearing, Manning tweeted that she had been denied access to the prison's legal library.

Manning was charged in August 2013 with violating the Espionage Act by providing more than 700,000 classified US government documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning's supporters have voiced concern over her treatment in prison.

Shortly after Manning was sentenced, she announced her intention to transition from male to female, and was granted permission by a Kansas judge to change her name from Bradley to Chelsea the following year.

In September 2014, Manning filed a federal lawsuit alleging that she had been consistently denied appropriate medical treatment for gender dysphoria, and that her constitutional rights had been violated as a result. In February, the US military said they would provide Manning with hormone therapy.

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Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU, has voiced concern that Manning was being unfairly targeted in prison for her visibility as a transgender icon, in spite of her incarceration. "Chelsea has a growing voice in the public discussion" Strangio told theGuardian. "And it would not surprise me if these charges were connected to who she is."

Solitary confinement as a disciplinary or punitive tactic in prisons has been subject to heavy scrutiny, with some criminal justice reform advocates arguing that prison isolation is tantamount to torture.

On Tuesday, Manning's supporters delivered 100,000 signatures to Army officials ahead of the hearing urging that they drop the new charges. The petition included statements from civil rights advocates and defense attorneys.

"The whole system is rigged against her [Manning]," Hollander wrote. "She cannot have a lawyer to assist her; she cannot prepare her own defense; and the hearing will be secret."

David Swanson, campaign coordinator from RootsAction.org, also signed the petition. "The US military in effect is threatening to torture a young woman for having the wrong toothpaste and magazine," he said.