Why would a government so keen on accusing people of espionage and no doubt wanting to set a precedent for various things being classified as espionage (such as leaks), settle so easily?
Well, because the charges have always been bogus and they know it. Daniel Ellsberg of the "Pentagon Papers" fame has made it extremely difficult if not downright impossible for the government to win in such cases.
If the US government will succeed in sentencing Assange, it won't be due to a espionage charge, but something else entirely, or at best, yet another plea bargain.
The Ellsberg case was resolved though when the case mistrialed because of prosecutorial misconduct so egregious it prevented the defendants from ever being able to have a fair trial. It was not resolved with any finding that any of the underlying charges were without merit, and therefore did not establish any legal precedent.
Because you've misunderstood the motive: it's not about setting precedent, it's about securing convictions for the people charged. Which plea bargain guilty pleas do.
> Daniel Ellsberg of the "Pentagon Papers" fame has made it extremely difficult if not downright impossible for the government to win in such cases.
For cases like the Ellsberg case , sure, but that's because of the gross prosecutorial misconduct in that case, not the substance of the charges.