By Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer
(CNN) — Convicted leaker Army Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged Wednesday that by leaking tens of thousands of pages of classified documents he “hurt people and hurt the United States.”
“I understood what I was doing was wrong but I didn’t appreciate the broader effects of my actions,” he said during his sentencing hearing at Maryland’s Fort Meade. “I only wanted to help people, not hurt people.”
The former Army intelligence analyst was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks. The counts against him included violations of the Espionage Act. He was found guilty of 20 of the 22 charges against him, and he could face up to 90 years in prison if the judge imposes the maximum sentence.
But Col. Denise Lind, the judge in the case, has already shown she’s not inclined to throw the book at him. She found him not guilty of the most serious charge against him — aiding the enemy — and after she rendered a verdict, she granted a defense motion that decreased the maximum penalty Manning faced from 136 years in prison to 90 years.
“At the time of my decisions I was dealing with a lot of issues,” he said, adding that it was not an excuse for what he did.
Manning told the court he recognized that he has to pay a price for what for he did.
His statement followed testimony from a military psychologist, who said Manning appeared to be isolated and under intense pressure as a male soldier struggling with gender identity issues.
“There would never be a time that he could be openly female,” Capt. Michael Worsey testified. “And so seeking treatment for that, treatment was how to adjust to that, not treat the disorder, but how to be comfortable with that in the Army.”
With much of the testimony in Manning’s sentencing hearing focusing on his gender identify issues, the Army on Wednesday released a full version of an e-mail he had sent to his sergeant titled “My Problem.”
While Manning does not specifically identify the problem he was referring to, the e-mail includes an image of him wearing a long blond wig and makeup.
“It’s not going away, its haunting me more and more as I get older,” he wrote in the e-mail. “Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain in itself. As a result, I’m not sure what to do about it.”
According to Shaunteh Kelly, a public affairs officer, Manning’s aunt and his sister were also expected to speak in his defense Wednesday.
Manning’s testimony marks the first time he has spoken publicly since he was convicted and the third since his arrest in the largest classified document leak case in U.S. history.
Earlier in the case, Manning testified about his treatment by the Marines at Quantico Brig in Virginia. The judge ruled that the Marines’ harsh treatment of Manning was out of line and granted him 112 days off his eventual sentence.
Later, before the start of his court-martial, Manning read a detailed statement after entering guilty pleas on 10 lesser charges in hopes the prosecution would pursue fewer of the charges against him. It didn’t work.
CNN’s Chris Lawrence and Paul Courson contributed to this report.
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