(FORT BRAGG, N.C.) — Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is set to face a judge again Tuesday morning against charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after he allegedly deserted his unit in 2009 and was then held captive by the Taliban for five years.
At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Bergdahl will attend a pre-trial hearing that will likely deal with motions and docket scheduling. According to the U.S. Army Judiciary Affairs website, the general court-martial will be held during a two-week period from Aug. 8 through Aug. 19.
It is unclear whether Bergdahl and his lawyers, civilian lawyer Eugene Fidell and military lawyer Captain Frank Rosenblatt, will enter a plea and preference for trial type at this hearing, or defer those decisions to a later hearing.
Bergdahl was arraigned and made his first appearance before a judge on Dec. 22. Bergdahl deferred entering a plea at that hearing. If Bergdahl is convicted of misbehavior before the enemy, he could face a life sentence, while the desertion charge carries a maximum five-year sentence.
Bergdahl’s story has continued to make headlines as the focus of the popular podcast Serial. More than 25 hours of recorded phone conversations between Bergdahl and Hollywood screenwriter and producer Mark Boal form the crucial backdrop for this season. These conversations mark the first time the public has heard Bergdahl’s story.
In the first episode, Bergdahl explains why he decided to leave his base and potentially jeopardize the safety of his platoon. Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009, from combat outpost Mest-Malak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Bergdahl said he was unhappy with the leadership in his unit and believed no one would take his complaints seriously. He devised a plan to draw attention to the issues by hiking 18 miles to another Army base.
Bergdahl also admitted that he had the desire to prove himself as a kind of “super soldier,” like the fictional CIA spy Jason Bourne.
The latest episode describes the unbearable conditions Bergdahl endured during his five years of captivity under the Taliban. He describes the cage he was kept locked in and instances of torture. Terrorists in the Taliban-related Haqqani network purportedly cut his chest with a razor “60 or 70 cuts at a time,” according to Bergdahl.
At a preliminary court hearing in September 2015, the presiding officer recommended that Bergdahl’s case should proceed to a Special Court Martial. Bergdahl could face limited jail time if convicted. The general officer who led the Army’s exhaustive investigation of Bergdahl’s case also did not favor jail time for Bergdahl.
“I do not believe there is a jail sentence at the end of this process,” said Major General Kenneth Dahl. “I think it would be inappropriate.”
But General Robert Abrams, the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, ultimately decided to refer the case to a general court martial which places no limits on sentencing for convictions.
“The convening authority did not follow the advice of the hearing officer who heard the witnesses,” said Fidell, noting he “had hoped the case would not go in this direction.”
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