Con­fine­ment rule vague, brig com­man­der tes­ti­fies

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By David Dishneau

FORT MEADE, MD. — The former com­man­der of a Marine Corps brig tes­ti­fied Thurs­day that a vague reg­u­la­tion gave him dis­cre­tion to main­tain tight re­stric­tions on an Army pri­vate charged in the Wik­iLeaks case af­ter a psy­chi­a­trist de­ter­mined the sol­dier was no longer a sui­cide risk.

Chief War­rant Of­fi­cer 4 James Aver­hart tes­ti­fied on the eighth day of a pre­trial hear­ing for Pfc. Bradley Man­ning. Aver­hart and de­fense at­tor­ney David Coombs sparred over the word “shall” in this mil­i­tary cor­rec­tions reg­u­la­tion: “When pris­on­ers are no longer con­sid­ered to be sui­cide risks by a med­i­cal of­fi­cer, they shall be re­turned to ap­pro­pri­ate quar­ters.”

Aver­hart said it meant the pris­oner should be re­moved from sui­cide watch “at a par­tic­u­lar time to be de­ter­mined.”

“‘Shall’ does not mean, the way I per­ceive it, ‘im­me­di­ately,’ or ‘right now,’ ” he said.

Coombs tried to pin him down: “Does that have a time lim­i­ta­tion?”

Aver­hart said the reg­u­la­tion al­lowed him to de­cide when the re­stric­tions should be eased. He said he didn’t act im­me­di­ately partly be­cause of Man­ning’s his­tory of anx­i­ety and sui­ci­dal ges­tures.

The Marine Corps’ chief of cor­rec­tions tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day that Aver­hart vi­o­lated the reg­u­la­tion twice af­ter psy­chi­a­trists rec­om­mended Man­ning’s han­dling be re­laxed.

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