Army schedules hearing to consider Bowe Bergdahl plea
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will appear in court next week to enter an expected guilty plea to charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Army announced that Bergdahl will enter a plea Oct. 16 at Fort Bragg. The news release didn’t elaborate on what his plea would entail, but two individuals with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press last week that Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. They were not authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity.
Prosecutors aren’t saying whether they have agreed to limit Bergdahl’s punishment. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the desertion charge is punishable by up to five years.
A lawyer for Bergdahl didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Oct. 12.
His trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 23, but those dates are expected to be used for sentencing now. While guilty pleas allow Bergdahl to avoid trial, his sentencing is still likely to include dramatic testimony about service members injured searching for him.
Legal scholars say it will be revealed at the Oct. 16 hearing whether Bergdahl struck a deal with prosecutors, or is simply pleading guilty with hopes of leniency from the judge. His five years of imprisonment by the Taliban and its allies could be a factor in his sentencing in either scenario.
Military judges are supposed to make unbiased decisions, so if prosecutors have proposed a more limited punishment, this judge won’t know exactly what they’re calling for until after he decides on a sentence. Military jurisprudence calls for Bergdahl to ultimately be sentenced to the lesser of the two punishments, legal scholars said.
Because the defense has lost several pretrial rulings, government prosecutors have a strong hand to pursue punishment and little to gain from a lenient plea deal, said Rachel Van Landingham, a former Air Force lawyer who teaches at Southwestern Law School in California.
“The Army has gone after this case with a vengeance – why not continue that pursuit by asking for a stiff punishment?” she said. “But who knows, this case has been quite topsy-turvy.”
Bergdahl could admit guilt without a plea agreement — known colloquially as a “naked plea” — which would be a risky move with some possible benefits. Such a plea wouldn’t require Bergdahl to agree with prosecutors on certain facts of the case, as he would under a deal, said former Army lawyer Eric Carpenter, who teaches law at Florida International University.
But, Carpenter said, “The military judge can sentence you to whatever he wants, so that’s the real risk that they would be taking.”
Prosecutors gained leverage when the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, decided to allow evidence of serious wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl at the sentencing phase. The judge said a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn’t have wound up in separate firefights that left them wounded if they hadn’t been searching for Bergdahl.
The defense also was rebuffed in an effort to prove President Donald Trump had unfairly swayed the case with scathing criticism of Bergdahl, including suggestions of harsh punishment. The judge wrote in a February ruling that Trump’s campaign-trail comments were “disturbing and disappointing” but did not constitute unlawful command influence by the soon-to-be commander in chief.
Defense attorneys have acknowledged that Bergdahl walked off his base without authorization. Bergdahl himself told a general during a preliminary investigation that he left intending to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit. He was captured soon after by the Taliban and its allies.
But the defense team has argued that Bergdahl can’t be held responsible for a long chain of events that included many decisions by others on how to conduct the searches.
The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade, but Obama said: ” The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”
Bergdahl, who’s from Hailey, Idaho, has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his legal case.
These are the military traditions for deployed troops celebrating Thanksgiving
While you're deployed, weekends aren't really a thing — neither are most holidays. Thanksgiving, however, is a moment when the military slows down.
Forget multitasking, this Navy squadron has only one mission — rescue people
The Navy has an entire squadron for search and rescue, and it is the only squadron in the Navy that has an advance life-support helicopter platform.
How the Coast Guard intercepts half a million pounds of cocaine
For the last couple decades, the Coast Guard has pushed out further, taking more aggressive stabs at the flow of drugs that make their way into the U.S.
More remains of Special Forces soldier found in Niger
The Department of Defense announced that military investigators found additional remains that they have positively ID'd as Sgt. La David T. Johnson.
'Butcher of of Bosnia' sentenced to life in prison for genocide
"The Butcher of Bosnia" was handed a life sentence on November 22nd, 2017, for war crimes and the slaughter of 8,000 men and young children.
New engravings on the USMC War Memorial honor Iraq and Afghanistan Marines
On Nov. 22, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial was updated to include Afghanistan and Iraq in the list of campaigns that runs along the memorial's base.
ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
As the Islamic State loses the in real life war they've waged against the world, they've moved their game online- waging war in the virtual world.
Everything you need to know about Zimbabwe's ousted dictator
The dictator of Zimbabwe announced his resignation on Nov. 21, 2017 after the county's army took of the capital and family, forcing the resignation.
Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son
Watch this adorable little boy steal into the hearts of all the Marines and civilians present as he promotes his dad and pins on his promoted rank.