NEWS

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl plans to plead guilty to desertion

Army Sgt. Bowe , who was held captive by the Taliban for half a decade after abandoning his Afghanistan post, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, two individuals with knowledge of the case said.


 decision to plead guilty rather than face trial marks another twist in an eight-year drama that caused the nation to wrestle with difficult questions of loyalty, negotiating with hostage takers and America's commitment not to leave its troops behind. President Donald Trump has called  a "no-good traitor" who "should have been executed."

A clip from a video released during Bergdahl's captivity.

The decision by the 31-year-old Idaho native leaves open whether he will return to captivity for years — this time in a U.S. prison — or receive a lesser sentence that reflects the time the Taliban held him under brutal conditions. He says he had been caged, kept in darkness, beaten and chained to a bed.

 could face up to five years on the desertion charge and a life sentence for misbehavior.

Freed three years ago,  had been scheduled for trial in late October. He had opted to let a judge rather than a military jury decide his fate, but a guilty plea later this month will spare the need for a trial.

Sentencing will start on Oct. 23, according to the individuals with knowledge of the case. They weren't authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity. During sentencing, U.S. troops who were seriously wounded searching for  in Afghanistanare expected to testify, the individuals said.

It was unclear whether prosecutors and  defense team had reached any agreement ahead of sentencing about how severe a penalty prosecutors will recommend.

Bowe Bergdahl in a photo after his capture by Taliban insurgents. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

An attorney for , Eugene Fidell, declined to comment on Friday. Maj. Justin Oshana, who is prosecuting the case, referred questions to the U.S. Army, which declined to discuss whether  had agreed to plead guilty.

"We continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused and ensuring the case's fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case," said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman.

 was a 23-year-old private first class in June 2009 when, after five months in Afghanistan, he disappeared from his remote infantry post near the Pakistan border, triggering a massive search operation.

Videos soon emerged showing  in captivity by the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and harbored al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden as they plotted against America. For years, the U.S. kept tabs on  with drones, spies and satellites as behind-the-scenes negotiations played out in fits and starts.

In May 2014, he was handed over to U.S. special forces in a swap for five Taliban detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison, fueling an emotional U.S. debate about whether  was a hero or a deserter.

Former President Obama and Bowe Bergdahl's parents. Photo from the Obama White House Archives.

As critics questioned whether the trade was worth it, President Barack Obama stood with  parents in the White House Rose Garden and defended the swap. The United States does not "leave our men or women in uniform behind," Obama declared, regardless of how  came to be captured. The Taliban detainees were sent to Qatar.

"Whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity," Obama said. "Period. Full stop."

Trump, as a presidential candidate, was unforgiving of , who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army basepending the outcome of his case. At campaign events, Trump declared that  "would have been shot" in another era, even pantomiming the pulling of the trigger.

"We're tired of Sgt. , who's a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed," Trump said at a Las Vegas rally in 2015.

 guilty plea will follow several pretrial rulings against him that had complicated his defense. Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, the judge, decided in June that testimony from troops wounded as they searched for him would be allowed during sentencing, a decision that strengthened prosecutors' leverage to pursue stiffer punishment.

Some of  fellow soldiers want him held responsible for any harm suffered by those who went looking for him. The judge ruled a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn't have found themselves in separate firefights if they hadn't been searching.

The defense separately argued Trump's scathing criticism unfairly swayed the case. The judge ruled otherwise. Nance wrote in February that Trump's comments were "disturbing and disappointing" but didn't constitute unlawful command influence by the soon-to-be commander in chief.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

 lawyers also contended that misbehavior before the enemy, the more serious charge, was legally inappropriate and too severe. They were rebuffed again. The judge said a soldier who leaves his post alone and without authorization should know he could face punishment. The misbehavior charge has rarely been used in recent decades, though there were hundreds of cases during World War II.

Defense attorneys don't dispute that  walked off his base without authorization.  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. An Army Sanity Board Evaluation concluded he suffered from schizotypal personality disorder.

The defense team has argued that  can't be held responsible for a long chain of events that included decisions by others about how to retrieve him that were far beyond his control.

GEAR & TECH

6 of the most notable pre-M16 military guns

Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.

Here are some of those weapons:

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
International

China and the US could end up in a war – here's what would happen

It's unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it's not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

Here are the best military photos for the week of April 20th

The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.

Keep reading... Show less
History

5 ways troops accidentally 'blue falcon' the rest of the platoon

Every now and then, the pricks known as 'Blue Falcons' come and ruin things for everyone else. They break the rules and make everyone else suffer. They rat out their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. They even damage the reputation of others to make themselves look better.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

Why I'm thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

Look, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is really lighting my fires when it comes to their female superheroes.

When Marvel Studios announced they would be bringing Captain Marvel to the big screen, I was thrilled. I was also immediately invested and my expectations shot through the roof.

Keep reading... Show less
History

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as "drop tanks," these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they're hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.

Keep reading... Show less

The hilarious ways Chinese police are combating jaywalkers

China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.

In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians' feet with water mist.

Keep reading... Show less