These 5 Infamous Criminals Were Locked Away For Less Time Than Bradley Manning
There are two ways to look at Bradley Manning. First, many view him as a whistle-blowing hero who alerted the American people of government injustice. Others view him as a vicious traitor who endangered the lives of thousands by releasing classified documents of government activity, regardless of the legality of the activities he revealed. His subsequent sentence of 35 years has since reflected the judicial view of his actions. It may seem harsh to the defense which sought only 25 years, and far too lenient for others on the prosecution, who were looking for 60 years or mere.
But Bradley Manning set his own kind of precedent with his crime because of the scale, method, controversial nature, and modern way he exposed information, so it's difficult to compare his sentence to that of others. Nonetheless, the harsh judgement does leave questions when compared against these infamous criminals who arguably did more harm while receiving lesser sentences:
1. Mark David Chapman
Convicted for murdering John Lennon on December 8, 1980, Chapman fired and struck Lennon four times in his back. Chapman later remained at the scene reading J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye until the police arrived and arrested him.
Chapman's legal team put forward an insanity defense based on expert testimony that he was in a delusional and possibly psychotic state at the time, which was probably emphasised by the fact that he continued to shout that "Catcher in the Rye" was his statement. A plea deal sentenced Chapman to a prison term of 20 years to life (less than the possible maximum of 25 to life) with a stipulation that mental health treatment be provided. Chapman was imprisoned in 1981 and has been denied parole seven times amidst campaigns against his release.
2. Bernard Ebbers
Bernard Ebbers is one of the most famous white collar crimes of all time. WorldCom, created in the 80s, grew to a communications giant in the late 90s through a series of acquisitions and mergers. Unfortunately, executive Ebbers miscalculated when the company acquired MCI and hid the loss with a variety of book-cooking. Ebbers also borrowed $400 million from WorldCom to finance other businesses that made no money, later claiming that he knew nothing about illegal practices within the company. Ultimately, he was either dishonest or simply incompetent as CEO, and in 2005 he was convicted of conspiracy and fraud. The amount defrauded was around $11 billion. WorldCom filed for bankruptcy, and Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
3. Jacob Kevorkian
A.K.A. "Dr. Death," Dr. Kevorkian deserves a seat on this list because of how hotly debated his crimes were. An American pathologist and euthanasia activist, he is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient's right to die via physician-assisted suicide, eventually claiming to have assisted 130 patients. He famously said that "dying is not a crime." In 1999, Kevorkian was arrested and tried for his direct role in a case of voluntary euthanasia and was convicted of second-degree murder, serving eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence.
4. Alger Hiss
Alger Hiss was accused by former Communist Whitaker Chambers of being a Soviet agent. When Hiss later counter-sued for slander, Chambers produced a packet of typewritten and handwritten notes allegedly from Hiss, and later, strips of 35-mm film of state documents allegedly taken by Hiss. These were famously referred to as the "pumpkin papers" because Chambers had kept them in a hollowed-out pumpkin. As a result, Hiss was charged with perjury and sentenced to five years in prison. He maintained his innocence on other disputed charges until his death.
Fun fact: This perjury case launched the career of then-congressman Richard Nixon, the head of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that investigated potential Communist infiltration in the government.
5. James Sullivan
Although Sullvan never shot his wife Lita himself, he was still arrested for her murder when the millionaire instead hired a hit man to do the dirty work. About to lose half his estate divorce, he asked Phillip Anthony Harwood to gun down his wife of nine years. Sullivan escaped arrest by fleeing abroad, and was arrested in Thailand in 2002, extradited to Atlanta, Georgia, and convicted of capital murder in 2006. Harwood is scheduled to be released from prison in 2017.