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Chelsea Manning and her Attorneys File Motion Declaring She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury

Chelsea Manning and her Attorneys File Motion Declaring She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury


Alexandria, VA — Today, attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen filed a Motion for Chelsea Manning to be released on the basis that, as she will never be convinced to cooperate with the grand jury, further confinement serves no lawful purpose and must be terminated.

According to Moira Meltzer-Cohen, attorney to Chelsea Manning:

“A witness who refuses to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena may be held in contempt of court, and fined or incarcerated. The only permissible purpose for confinement under the civil contempt statute is to attempt to coerce a witness to comply with the subpoena, or “purge” their contempt. If it is no longer possible to purge the contempt, either because the grand jury is no longer in existence, or because the witness is un-coercible, then confinement has been transformed from coercive into punitive, in violation of the law.

“The key issue before Judge Hilton is whether continued incarceration could persuade Chelsea to testify. Many judges have complained of the “perversity” of this law: that a witness may win their freedom by persisting in their contempt of court. However, should he agree that Chelsea will never agree to testify, he will be compelled by the law to order her release.

“Since Ms. Manning is not going to agree to give testimony before the grand jury, she argues, her confinement has exceeded its permissible scope, and she must be released.

“Letters of support were submitted to the Court by Ms. Manning’s friends, family, and colleagues, including from representatives of civil liberties organizations including the ACLU, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Fight for the Future. These letters reiterate that Chelsea is a person of great moral courage, who will not be swayed into betraying her principles, even in the face of great hardship.

“That her confinement has already been so arduous gives credence to her claim that she will endure great hardship rather than agree to cooperate.”

According to Chelsea’s former attorney, Chase Strangio of the ACLU.

“The constant in Ms. Manning’s life is her unwavering commitment to her principles,” said Strangio. “I am certain that no punishment could coerce her to violate those principles.”

Included in the filing is a lengthy declaration by Chelsea explaining her position:

“After two months of confinement, and using every legal mechanism available so far, I can —without any hesitation— state that nothing will convince me to testify before this or any other grand jury for that matter. This experience so far only proves my long held belief that grand juries are simply outdated tools used by the federal government to harass and disrupt political opponents and activists in fishing expeditions…

“The way I am being treated proves what a corrupt and abusive tool this truly is. With each passing day my disappointment and frustration grow, but so too do my commitments to doing the right thing and continuing to refuse to submit…

“I believe this grand jury seeks to undermine the integrity of public discourse with the aim of punishing those who expose any serious, ongoing, and systemic abuses of power by this government, as well as the rest of the international community…”

“Over the past decade, I grappled with bouts of depression. I can think of nothing that could exacerbate those struggles more than pretending to live as someone I am not once again, and turning my back on everything I care about and fight for…

“I wish to return home. I want to return to my work — writing, speaking, consulting, and teaching. The idea I hold the keys to my own cell is an absurd one, as I face the prospect of suffering either way due to this unnecessary and punitive subpoena: I can either go to jail or betray my principles. The latter exists as a much worse prison than the government can construct.”


Note to editors


Chelsea Manning is represented by Moira Meltzer-Cohen, appellate attorney Vincent Ward, and local counsel Chris Leibig and Sandra Freeman.


Past Developments


1.  April 1, 2019Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Ask Court to Release Her, Pending Appeal, Citing Abuse of District Court Discretion https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/04/chelsea-mannings-lawyers-ask-fourth-circuit-to-release-her-pending-appeal/

2. March 29, 2019Lawyers for Chelsea Manning Ask Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to Void Charges of Civil Contempt https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/03/chelsea-manning-grand-jury-appeal/

3. March 23, 2019Lawyers and Supporters Condemn Chelsea Manning’s Ongoing Detention Under Solitary Confinement Conditions https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/03/lawyers-and-supporters-condemn-chelsea-mannings-ongoing-detention-under-solitary-confinement-conditions/

4. March 8, 2019Chelsea Manning’s Support Committee: Manning’s Detention for Refusal to Provide Grand Jury Testimony is Pointless, Punitive, and Cruel http://www.balestramedia.com/chelsea-press-releases/2019/3/8/chelsea-mannings-support-committee-mannings-detention-for-refusal-to-provide-grand-jury-testimony-is-pointless-punitive-and-cruel

5. March 6, 2019Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/03/statement-from-chelsea-manning-regarding-grand-jury-and-consequences-associated-with-her-refusal/

6. March 5, 2019Chelsea Manning Continues to Challenge Grand Jury Subpoena, Motion to Quash Denied, Remains Under Seal http://www.balestramedia.com/chelsea-press-releases/2019/3/8/chelsea-manning-continues-to-challenge-grand-jury-subpoena-motion-to-quash-denied-remains-under-seal

7. April 22, 2019Chelsea Manning and Her Attorneys Respond to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling Affirming Contempt and Continuing Her Detention https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/04/chelsea-manning-and-her-attorneys-respond-to-4th-circuit-court-of-appeals-ruling-affirming-contempt-and-continuing-her-detention/


Chelsea Manning and Her Attorneys Respond to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling Affirming Contempt and Continuing Her Detention

Chelsea Manning and Her Attorneys Respond to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling Affirming Contempt and Continuing Her Detention

Alexandria, VA — This morning, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s finding of contempt and denied Chelsea Manning’s motion for release on bail.

Neither decision included any legal reasoning or explanation for the Court’s conclusions.

Ms. Manning is now contemplating other post-contempt remedies including an appeal to the whole panel of Fourth Circuit judges (called an “En Banc” panel) or to the Supreme Court.

“While disappointing, we can still raise issues as the government continues to abuse the grand jury process. I don’t have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury. While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up. Thank you all so very much for your love and solidarity through letters and contributions.”

Moira Meltzer-Cohen, of Ms. Manning’s legal team, explained why Chelsea’s subpoena and confinement should be considered grand jury abuse:

“We are of course disappointed that the Circuit declined to follow clearly established law, or consider the ample evidence of grand jury abuse. 

“It is improper for a prosecutor to use the grand jury to prepare for trial. As pointed out in Ms. Manning’s motions and appeals, since her testimony is not necessary to the grand jury’s investigation, the likely purpose for her subpoena is to help the prosecutor preview and undermine her potential testimony as a defense witness for a pending trial. 

“We believed that the Appeals court would consider this, as it is strong evidence of an abuse of grand jury power that should excuse her testimony.”

In February, 2019, Chelsea Manning was subpoenaed to give testimony before a grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia. On March 5, she moved District Court Judge Claude Hilton to quash the subpoena on a number of legal grounds, but her motions were denied.

After refusing to answer questions before the grand jury, Chelsea was found in civil contempt of court and conveyed to the Alexandria Detention Center on March 8. She has remained in confinement since that time, enduring medical hardships and prolonged isolation.

During her confinement she appealed Judge Hilton’s finding of contempt, asserting legal justifications for her refusal to cooperate with the grand jury. Today’s rulings conclude the first phase of appeals.

Note to editors


Chelsea Manning is represented by Moira Meltzer-Cohen, appellate attorney Vincent Ward, and local counsel Chris Leibig and Sandra Freeman.

Past developments


1.  April 1, 2019 – Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Ask Court to Release Her, Pending Appeal, Citing Abuse of District Court Discretion https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/04/chelsea-mannings-lawyers-ask-fourth-circuit-to-release-her-pending-appeal/

2. March 29, 2019 – Lawyers for Chelsea Manning Ask Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to Void Charges of Civil Contempt https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/03/chelsea-manning-grand-jury-appeal/

3. March 23, 2019 – Lawyers and Supporters Condemn Chelsea Manning’s Ongoing Detention Under Solitary Confinement Conditions https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/03/lawyers-and-supporters-condemn-chelsea-mannings-ongoing-detention-under-solitary-confinement-conditions/

4. March 8, 2019 – Chelsea Manning’s Support Committee: Manning’s Detention for Refusal to Provide Grand Jury Testimony is Pointless, Punitive, and Cruel http://www.balestramedia.com/chelsea-press-releases/2019/3/8/chelsea-mannings-support-committee-mannings-detention-for-refusal-to-provide-grand-jury-testimony-is-pointless-punitive-and-cruel

5. March 6, 2019 – Statement from Chelsea Manning Regarding Grand Jury and Consequences Associated with Her Refusal https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/03/statement-from-chelsea-manning-regarding-grand-jury-and-consequences-associated-with-her-refusal/

6. March 5, 2019 – Chelsea Manning Continues to Challenge Grand Jury Subpoena, Motion to Quash Denied, Remains Under Seal http://www.balestramedia.com/chelsea-press-releases/2019/3/8/chelsea-manning-continues-to-challenge-grand-jury-subpoena-motion-to-quash-denied-remains-under-seal

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Support Team Regarding Assange Indictment and Punitive Nature of Chelsea’s Continued Detention

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Support Team Regarding Assange Indictment and Punitive Nature of Chelsea’s Continued Detention

Alexandria, VA — Today, Chelsea Manning’s legal team will file a reply brief in their appeal asking the Fourth Circuit to vacate District Court Judge Hilton’s March 8 finding of civil contempt. Ms. Manning, a staunch advocate for government transparency, asserted legal grounds for her refusal to participate in what she views as an assault on the free press. She remains in detention as a result of the contempt finding. The Assange indictment disclosed this morning strengthens their claims of grand jury abuse, say Manning’s attorneys.

“The indictment against Julian Assange unsealed today was obtained a year to the day before Chelsea appeared before the grand jury and refused to give testimony. The fact that this indictment has existed for over a year underscores what Chelsea’s legal team and Chelsea herself have been saying since she was first issued a subpoena to appear in front of a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia — that compelling Chelsea to testify would have been duplicative of evidence already in the possession of the grand jury, and was not needed in order for US Attorneys to obtain an indictment of Mr. Assange.  Grand Juries may not be used for the sole and dominant purpose of preparing for trial, including questioning potential trial witnesses. Since her testimony can no longer contribute to a grand jury investigation, Chelsea’s ongoing detention can no longer be seriously alleged to constitute an attempt to coerce her testimony. As continued detention would be purely punitive, we demand Chelsea be released.”

Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Ask Court to Release Her, Pending Appeal, Citing Abuse of District Court Discretion

Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Ask Court to Release Her, Pending Appeal, Citing Abuse of District Court Discretion

Alexandria, VA — Today, Chelsea Manning’s legal team asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to release her from jail, pending her appeal because the District Court failed to consider evidence that would excuse her from having to give testimony before the grand jury.

Ms. Manning was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia in early March. She asserted that answering questions before the grand jury would violate her constitutional and statutory rights. Without commenting on Ms. Manning’s arguments, District Court Judge Claude Hilton ordered her confined for the term of the grand jury, or until she agrees to give testimony. Ms. Manning appealed the ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Friday March, 29th, and now asks for bail pending determination of the appeal. Release must be granted as long as the appeal is neither frivolous nor a delay tactic.

Ms. Manning has been held in “administrative segregation” at the Alexandria Detention Center since March 8, 2019, under conditions that amount to prolonged solitary confinement, something Juan Mendez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, has said “must be absolutely prohibited, because it always amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and may even constitute torture.”

A witness may be civilly confined in order to coerce cooperation with the grand jury, but may not be punished. Since the conditions of her confinement have now become punitive, Ms. Manning contends, the Circuit should order her release.

According to Ms. Manning’s attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, “This is the strongest appeal of a grand jury contempt I have ever seen, and so release ought to be granted. The lower court acted without considering clear legal mandates and this error, including the denial of release, must be corrected in the appellate court.”

Lawyers for Chelsea Manning Ask Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to Void Charges of Civil Contempt

Lawyers for Chelsea Manning Ask Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to Void Charges of Civil Contempt

Alexandria, VA — Today Chelsea Manning’s attorneys asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate (void) District Court Judge Hilton’s finding of civil contempt. The following is a statement from Chelsea Resists!, Chelsea Manning’s Support Committee, regarding today’s filing:

“Chelsea’s legal team is asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate (void) District Court Judge Hilton’s finding of civil contempt, for three main reasons:

“1) Because it would appear that Judge Hilton denied Chelsea’s motion asking the government to disclose the existence of any unlawful surveillance without actually considering the evidence. Rarely does a judge deny a motion without doing so explicitly or making any actual rulings or statements about any of the legal issues brought before the court.

“Judge Hilton didn’t question the government about any of the issues or facts raised in the electronic surveillance motion. He did not even ask the government to make simple affirmations or denials regarding whether it was aware that electronic surveillance had occurred, although the law requires that the government make such denials once a “colorable claim” is raised.

“These questions about surveillance are especially important because any evidence derived from unlawful surveillance may not be used in a grand jury, and the existence of such surveillance would excuse Chelsea from having to testify before the grand jury.

“2) Because the Judge failed to demand even minimal assurances that the subpoena was properly motivated, despite ample evidence of abuse.

“The proper purpose of the grand jury is to investigate federal crimes, and if justified, issue indictments. Prosecutors may not use the grand jury for the primary purpose of preparing for trial of an already-secured indictment. Chelsea raised concerns that the government did not need her testimony to further their investigation, and that rather they intended to use the subpoena to preview and perhaps undermine any testimony she might give at trial for an already-pending indictment. This would be an abuse of process which would excuse her testimony. If the purpose of the subpoena was improper, it should have never been issued in the first place.

“The District Court Judge should have considered these arguments, and elicited confirmation of proper purpose from the government. He did not consider the facts or the law on this motion, and the finding of contempt should therefore be reversed.

“3) Because significant portions of the contempt hearing were held in a closed courtroom in violation of Chelsea’s 5th and 6th Amendment rights to a public trial, and the Government has not given any good reasons for keeping the proceedings secret.

“Remember that even though Chelsea has not been convicted or even accused of a crime, she is still being held in conditions that amount to solitary confinement. We hope at the very least that the Fourth Circuit will release her during the appeal process, on the basis that her so-called civil confinement has been transformed into punishment, which is not legally permissible.

“It is important to remember that Chelsea is currently being subjected to a form of imprisonment that arises to the level that the UN and many other experts consider to be torturous which is especially egregious given that Chelsea has not been charged with or convicted of a crime.”