Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy later this month, charges that carry life in prison. The Associated Press (AP) cited two sources who said the disgraced soldier will enter the plea rather than face trial for deserting his post in Afghanistan back in 2009.
The AP did not name the sources, but if true sentencing would start October 23. He faces up to 5 years in prison on the desertion charge and a life sentence for misbehavior.
Mr. Bergdahl’s lawyer declined to comment.
Bergdahl, 31, who was serving with an Alaska-based infantry regiment, deserted his Afghanistan post in 2009. At the time, he was 23 years old and was held captive by the Taliban for roughly 5 years. Bergdahl said he had been caged in the darkness, beaten and chained to a bed.
However, in December 2009, the Taliban released a second video showing him in good health as he delivered a lengthy statement criticizing the U.S. military. Eventually, the Obama Administration agreed to a controversial trade in exchange for 5 highly-dangerous Guantanamo detainees dubbed the “Taliban Five.”
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GA) said in August 2014 that the Obama Administration failed to notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the exchange, which was a clear violation of the law. The executive branch is prohibited under law from releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees without first giving the aforementioned notice and receiving congressional approval.
The disgraced solider initially claimed he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured. He also said he left his post to alert people about problems he perceived within his unit. Investigators said Mr. Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder at the time he left his post, and had become deeply anti-American.
In December, he requested a pardon from then-President Barack Obama before he left office, though it was denied. Mr. Obama attempted to use a photo-op with his father and mother in the Rose Garden to arrest sinking approval ratings. The public quickly turned against the exchange when more details began to emerge.
Then-Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Mr. Bergdahl was a “no-good traitor” who should be executed for his crimes and the tragic result of those crimes. His fellow soldiers also wanted him held responsible for casualties incurred as a result of those who went searching for him.
A judge ruled a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn’t have found themselves in deadly firefights if it hadn’t been for the desertion. The U.S. troops who were seriously wounded during their search for Bergdahl in Afghanistan were expected to testify at the trial.
Meanwhile, of the “Taliban Five” — Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban army chief of staff; Khairullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban intelligence official; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a former Taliban government official; and Norullah Noori and Mohammad Nabi Omari — at least three have attempted to reconnect with their old Islamic terrorist brothers.
(a) Any member of the armed forces who–
(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;
(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or
(3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another on of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States; is guilty of desertion.
(b) Any commissioned officer of the armed forces who, after tender of his resignation and before notice of its acceptance, quits his post or proper duties without leave and with intent to remain away therefrom permanently is guilty of desertion.
(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.
Any person subject to this chapter who before or in the presence of the enemy–
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle;
shall be punished by death or such punishment as a court- martial may direct.