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.”