A federal judge ordered that former Army analyst Chelsea Manning — a biological male born Bradley Manning who became a transgender celebrity — be released from jail following a suicide attempt Wednesday. Manning, who released secret military files to WikiLeaks, was jailed in May after refusing to answer questions from a grand jury in the case.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga said the grand jury had completed its business. He claimed that Manning’s “appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed,” but he nonetheless ordered Manning to pay the $256,000 in fines he had accrued while fighting the order to testify, NBC News reported.
Manning had been convicted of espionage and other charges at a court-martial in 2013. He was not convicted of aiding the enemy, an official treason charge which can carry the death penalty. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2016, but former President Barack Obama commuted his sentence. During his imprisonment, Manning engaged in transgender activism, demanding that he receive “treatments” regarding his identity as a woman and eventually convincing the Army to foot the bill for experimental treatments.
He was ordered jailed in May 2019 after he refused to answer further questions about WikiLeaks, claiming he already did so during the trial seven years ago.
Manning also claimed he refused to testify before the grand jury because “I don’t believe in the grand jury process. I don’t believe in the secrecy of this.”
His lawyers asked for the fine to be set aside, but the judge denied the request Thursday, claiming that it had been “necessary to the coercive purpose” of the civil contempt order that put him in jail in the first place.
When Manning attempted suicide on Wednesday, his legal team used the attempt as evidence that he should be released.
“Her actions today evidence the strength of her convictions, as well as the profound harm she continues to suffer as a result of her ‘civil’ confinement — a coercive practice that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently said violates international law,” the team said.
Yet this turn of events sets a dangerous precedent. Should criminals be able to escape their sentences by attempting to commit suicide? Already, transgender activists argue that gender-confused people will attempt to commit suicide if their demands are not met. Transgender activism uses the threat of suicide to force its agenda of full acceptance of gender identity over against biological sex.
Suicide is horrific, and it should be taken seriously. People who are truly suicidal need help. But it should not be transformed into a cultural, political, and legal weapon.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.