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Lawyers Say Chelsea Manning Lacks Financial Capacity to Pay Fines

Lawyers Say Chelsea Manning Lacks Financial Capacity to Pay Fines

Alexandria, VA — In a reply brief to be filed later today, Chelsea Manning will propose guidelines for a hearing to assess her financial capacity before Judge Anthony Trenga, who, just over a month ago, ordered her to pay fines that could total up to nearly half a million dollars. These fines were imposed in addition to her incarceration.

While the government has alleged that she has access to resources that would enable her to pay these fines, that perception is simply wrong, say Chelsea and her lawyers. Although prior to her recent confinement, Ms. Manning was able to earn a living from public speaking, she is not a wealthy person, her team says. Records show she was forced to lay off the individual employed by her small business after her incarceration in March, 2019. She has no personal savings, an uncertain speaking career that has been abruptly halted by her incarceration, and is moving her few belongings into storage, as she can no longer afford to pay her rent.

Chelsea — who made exhaustive financial disclosures to the public during her 2018 run for the U.S. Senate — requested an opportunity to share her records with the Court shortly after the imposition of the fines. She will produce documents demonstrating that her current debt and compromised earning capacity have left her balance sheets near zero:


The government, and maybe the general public, think that I have access to resources just because I am a public figure but that’s just not true. Making money has never been my priority.

I do the work I do for the same reason I do everything: because I want to make a difference. Now, my work has been totally interrupted by my incarceration. I definitely feel the costs of these sanctions, but I never expected to have a comfortable life, and I would rather be in debt forever than betray my principles.”

Chelsea E. Manning

Ms. Manning and her legal team argue that, as it stands, the fines imposed are so much greater than her current and potential net worth that she will not be able to pay them in full. Moreover, while corporations are routinely financially sanctioned, it is unheard of for an individual to be hit with such heavy fines, particularly where the underlying matter involves no financial misconduct. For all of these reasons, her lawyers argue, the fines should either be reduced or vacated altogether.  

Furthermore, they argue, Chelsea will sooner bankrupt herself trying to pay these exorbitant fines than cooperate with the grand jury; since these fines will never coerce her cooperation, they are impermissibly punitive. Finally, they ask Judge Trenga to acknowledge that the jail sanction has definitively failed to coerce Chelsea, transforming any further confinement into an illegitimate punishment, rather than a civil sanction.


Past Developments


1. May 31, 2019: Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Files Motion to Reconsider Sanctions https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-mannings-lawyers-file-motion-to-reconsider-sanctions/

2. May 23, 2019: Statement from Chelsea Manning and Her Lawyer Regarding Today’s Superseding Indictment https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/statement-from-chelsea-manning-her-lawyer-regarding-todays-superseding-indictment/

3. May 16, 2019 – Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Regarding Today’s Grand Jury Hearing: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/statement-from-chelsea-mannings-legal-team/

4. May 12, 2019 – Chelsea on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter: https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2019/05/12/chelsea-manning-speaks-out-after-two-months-in-jail.cnn/video/playlists/reliable-sources-highlights

5. May 10, 2019– Chelsea’s video statement (with full transcription): https://youtu.be/TDZGRRk4Mn

6. May 9, 2019 – Statements from Chelsea and her legal team: Chelsea Manning Released from Alexandria Detention Center After Grand Jury Lapses: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-manning-released-from-alexandria-detention-center/

7. May 6, 2019 – Chelsea Manning and her Attorneys File Motion Declaring She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-manning-and-attorneys-file-motion-declaring-she-will-never-be-convinced-to-cooperate-with-the-grand-jury/

8. April 22, 2019 – Chelsea 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/

9.  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/

10.  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/

11. 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/

12.  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

13. 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/

14. 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

Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Files Motion to Reconsider Sanctions

Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Files Motion to Reconsider Sanctions

Alexandria, VA — Today, Chelsea Manning and her legal team filed a Motion to Reconsider Sanctions, in which they ask Judge Anthony Trenga to release Chelsea from confinement, and ask that he modify the fines he imposed on her.

During the May 16th contempt hearing, Judge Trenga found Ms. Manning in contempt of court and ordered her confined for the term of the grand jury. Judge Trenga also imposed graduated fines to be assessed at $500 per day starting after 30 days of confinement, and jumping to $1,000 per day after 60 days, for as long as she refuses to comply with the court’s order to answer questions before the grand jury.

During that same hearing, Judge Trenga prevailed upon Ms. Manning to use her confinement as an opportunity to reflect on her principles and objections to the grand jury process. A letter from Chelsea filed with the court today represents her efforts to communicate those principles and objections clearly and completely to the judge, and to show him that she has in fact reflected on her convictions sincerely and at length.

Judge Trenga is asked to consider five important arguments in today’s court filing:

  1. A renewal of Ms. Manning’s motion for release, on the basis that she cannot be coerced, and that her incarceration is therefore only punitive. A sanction that serves only to punish her would convert what is intended as a civil coercive sanction into a criminal punishment, in violation of her 5th Amendment rights to due process.

  2. The government has now successfully obtained not one, but two indictments, without the benefit of or need for Chelsea’s testimony. Furthermore, as the government’s sixty-day window to add further charges prior to the submission of their extradition request is nearly over, the legitimacy of its purported need for Chelsea’s evidence is increasingly doubtful.

  3. The court may impose civil fines in order to coerce compliance with a court order – but not to punish disobedience with a court order. Coercive fines, however, are usually only applied to corporations, which cannot be jailed. Furthermore, such fines may not be imposed without the court confirming that the fines will not be excessive or punitive. This requires the judge to carefully examine the witness’s financial capacity, which was not done in this case.

  4. In the unusual event that fines are imposed on individuals, it is where the underlying contempt involves a refusal to comply with a court order about the management of large sums of money. There are no such facts in Chelsea’s case, and her lawyers believe that imposing any fine may be presumed to be definitionally punitive, rather than coercive.

  5. Although both fines and confinement are within the traditional contempt powers of the court, past cases suggest that these may be used one at a time, or one after the other, but a court should not impose both at once.

The government and Chelsea’s legal team are in agreement that witnesses held in civil contempt may be held for no more than 18 months total, even for contempts occurring before different grand juries. As a result, on May 29, 2019, the government joined Ms. Manning’s counsel in asking Judge Trenga to give her 62 days “time served” and to modify his order of confinement to the term of this grand jury minus the 62 days she already spent in confinement (for contempt before a previous grand jury proceeding).

Statement from Chelsea Manning and Her Lawyer Regarding Today’s Superseding Indictment

Statement from Chelsea Manning and Her Lawyer Regarding Today’s Superseding Indictment


“This administration describes the press as the opposition party and an enemy of the people. Today, they use the law as a sword…”Chelsea Manning


Alexandria, VA — Chelsea Manning and her attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen have issued the following statements in reply to today’s events:

The continued detention of Chelsea Manning is purely punitive. Today’s events underscore what Chelsea has previously said, “[a]ll 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.”

“I continue to accept full and sole responsibility for those disclosures in 2010,” said Chelsea Manning this evening. “It’s telling that the government appears to have already obtained this indictment before my contempt hearing last week. This administration describes the press as the opposition party and an enemy of the people. Today, they use the law as a sword, and have shown their willingness to bring the full power of the state against the very institution intended to shield us from such excesses.”

Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Manning’s attorney stated, “up until now the Department Of Justice has been reticent to actually indict publishers for work implicating matters of national security, because the first amendment rights of the press and public are so constitutionally valuable. This signals a real shift, and sets a new precedent for the federal government’s desire to chill and even punish the vigorous exercise of the free press.”

Note to editors


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

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Regarding Chelsea Being Remanded Into Custody

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Regarding Chelsea Being Remanded Into Custody

Alexandria, VA — Today, Chelsea Manning was remanded into federal custody, again, for refusing to testify before a federal Grand Jury.  

In addition to being held in confinement for the duration of the Grand Jury investigation or until she purges her contempt and testifies, District Court Judge Anthony Trenga ordered Chelsea to be fined $500 every day she is in custody after 30 days and $1,000 every day she is in custody after 60 days.

While coercive financial penalties are commonly assessed against corporate witnesses, which cannot be jailed for contempt, it is less usual to see them used against a human witness. 

In a sealed hearing, Judge Anthony Trenga heard arguments that this post-indictment subpoena should be quashed as an impermissible effort to compel Chelsea to participate in trial preparation, which is beyond the scope of the grand jury’s investigative function. 

Judge Trenga also heard arguments on whether Chelsea was subject to unlawful electronic surveillance, ultimately declining either to demand from the government further assurances on the matter, or to quash the subpoena. 

Prior to being held in contempt, Ms. Manning was heard in open court on her objections to the grand jury as a secret process that runs counter to her values. 

Today’s hearings took place exactly one week after her release, following 63 days of confinement, 28 days of which she spent in solitary confinement conditions, for refusal to testify before a seperate Grand Jury that sought answers to identical questions that were asked of her today. 

The motions and transcripts may be partially unsealed following review and redaction by the parties and the Court.

The following is a statement to the press from Moira Meltzer-Cohen, Attorney for Chelsea Manning:

“We are of course disappointed with the outcome of today’s hearing, but I anticipate it will be exactly as coercive as the previous sanction — which is to say not at all.

“In 2010 Chelsea made a principled decision to let the world see the true nature modern asymmetric warfare. It is telling that the United states has always been more concerned with the disclosure of those documents than with the damning substance of the disclosures.

“The American government relies on the informed consent of the governed, and the free press is the vigorous mechanism to keep us informed. It is a point of pride for this administration to be publicly hostile to the press. Grand Juries and prosecutions like this one broadcast an expanding threat to the press and function to undermine the integrity of the system according to the government’s own laws.

“This administration is also obsessed with undercutting the legacy of President Barack Obama, from reversing healthcare policy to Chelsea Manning’s commutation. 

“It is up to the press to stand up for themselves, to stand up for the practice of journalism, and to stand up for Chelsea in the same manner she has consistently stood up for the press.”

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. May 16, 2019 – Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Regarding Today’s Grand Jury Hearing: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/statement-from-chelsea-mannings-legal-team/


2.  May 12, 2019 – Chelsea on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter: https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2019/05/12/chelsea-manning-speaks-out-after-two-months-in-jail.cnn/video/playlists/reliable-sources-highlights


3.  May 10, 2019– Chelsea’s video statement (with full transcription): https://youtu.be/TDZGRRk4Mn
 

4.  May 9, 2019 – Statements from Chelsea and her legal team: Chelsea Manning Released from Alexandria Detention Center After Grand Jury Lapses: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-manning-released-from-alexandria-detention-center/

5.  May 6, 2019 – Chelsea Manning and her Attorneys File Motion Declaring She will Never Cooperate with Grand Juryhttps://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-manning-and-attorneys-file-motion-declaring-she-will-never-be-convinced-to-cooperate-with-the-grand-jury/


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

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

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

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

10.  March 8, 2019 – Chelsea Manning’s Support Committee: Manning’s Detention for Refusal to Provide Grand Jury Testimony is Pointless, Punitive, and Cruelhttp://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

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

12. March 5, 2019 – Chelsea Manning Continues to Challenge Grand Jury Subpoena, Motion to Quash Denied, Remains Under Sealhttp://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 Legal Team Regarding Today’s Grand Jury Hearing

Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Legal Team Regarding Today’s Grand Jury Hearing

Alexandria, VA — Today, Chelsea and her team will argue a Motion to Quash the subpoena compelling Chelsea to appear today for a second time to give testimony before a grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia.

This subpoena issued more than a year after the previous grand jury obtained an indictment against the founder of the organization that published Chelsea Manning’s 2010 disclosures of classified information.

Since the grand jury serves only an investigative function, and may not be used to prepare for trial on an already-pending indictment, Chelsea’s lawyers contend that this subpoena represents an improper and impermissible use of the grand jury process.

In addition to the Motion to Quash filed with the court yesterday is a Motion to Disclose Electronic Surveillance, asking the Judge to order the government to disclose the existence of any electronic surveillance to which Ms. Manning has been subject. If the government refuses to comply with their obligations to affirm or deny that any surveillance took place, the legal team asks that the judge quash the subpoena.

Chelsea will hold a brief press conference on the apron of the Alexandria District Courthouse, 401 Courthouse Square, in Alexandria Virginia, at 1:15 p.m.

Chelsea’s hearing will take place at 2 p.m.

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.  May 12, 2019Chelsea on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Brian Stelter: https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2019/05/12/chelsea-manning-speaks-out-after-two-months-in-jail.cnn/video/playlists/reliable-sources-highlights/

2.  May 10, 2019Chelsea’s video statement (with full transcription): https://youtu.be/TDZGRRk4Mn

3.  May 9, 2019Statements from Chelsea and her legal team: Chelsea Manning Released from Alexandria Detention Center After Grand Jury Lapses: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-manning-released-from-alexandria-detention-center/

4.  May 6, 2019Chelsea Manning and her Attorneys File Motion Declaring She will Never Cooperate with Grand Jury: https://www.sparrowmedia.net/2019/05/chelsea-manning-and-attorneys-file-motion-declaring-she-will-never-be-convinced-to-cooperate-with-the-grand-jury/


5.  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/

6.  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/

7.  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/

8.  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/

9.  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

10. 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/

11. 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