Yesterday, Army Private Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks, and since then, he's announced that he will live the rest of his life as a woman. Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, sat down with the Today show's Savannah Guthrie to further discuss the case this morning, touching on his hopes that Manning will be pardoned and his insights into Manning's gender announcement. In a statement read on the Today show, Manning thanked supporters and requested to be addressed as a woman from now on:
I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Manning's gender identity came up in the court proceedings when her attorneys shared an email Manning sent to a supervisor in 2010 saying she was transgender and hoped to "get rid of it" in the Army. During today's interview, Guthrie asked Coombs whether the gender announcement came up because Manning wants to end up in a female prison. Coombs said, "No, the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her own skin." He also mentioned that he doesn't fear for Manning's safety, saying, "Everyone that's in a military prison is a first-time offender. These are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison and are really just trying to do their time and then get out." Coombs expects Manning's prison time to be shorter than 35 years, believing she will be out on parole in seven years, adding, "But I actually expect [her] to get pardoned, at least that's what my hope is."