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Judge won’t reconsider daily fines against Chelsea Manning for refusing to testify

Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning talks to reporters on May 16 before entering the federal courthouse in Alexandria. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)

Chelsea Manning will not get a hearing to challenge steep daily penalties imposed for her refusal to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

In an order issued Monday, Judge Anthony J. Trenga in Alexandria federal court said there were no “reasonable grounds” to reconsider his decision to impose the fines, which started at $500 per day and have now risen to $1,000. Manning, 31, who was first jailed in March for refusing to testify, could be in jail for up to 18 months, and her attorneys estimate that the total cost will be close to half a million dollars.

Her attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said Manning “expects to remain” in jail for about 400 more days. She added that while they are “evaluating our legal options . . . above all right now we are all working to strategize for her long-term health and welfare.”

Manning had argued that she wasn’t able to pay the fines and asked for a hearing to make that clear. Trenga found that she “has the ability to comply . . . or will have the ability after her release from confinement.”

In a statement Wednesday, Manning said: “I am disappointed but not at all surprised. The government and the judge must know by now that this doesn’t change my position one bit.”

Prosecutors wanted Manning to testify about her interactions with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, to whom she leaked thousands of classified government cables in 2010. Manning spent seven years in a military prison for her disclosures before President Barack Obama ordered her release.

Since Manning was sent to jail in March, Assange has been arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act. She argues that her testimony is therefore no longer necessary; grand juries can investigate only uncharged crimes. But prosecutors have argued in filings that her testimony is “relevant and essential to an ongoing investigation into charges or targets” beyond Assange.

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