Report: Bowe Bergdahl to plead guilty to desertion, misbehavior before the enemy
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is set to plead guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, The Associated Press reported Friday.
Bergdahl is accused of deserting his station in Afghanistan in 2009. He was held captive by armed Taliban militants until his release in 2014.
President Trump has slammed Bergdahl as a “no-good traitor,” saying he “should have been executed.”
During his campaign, the real estate mogul proposed returning Bergdahl to the Taliban or simply tossing him out of an airplane.
“Let’s fly him over. We’ll dump him right in the middle. Throw him out of the plane. Should we give him a parachute or not?” Trump said at a 2015 rally. “I say no. Don’t give him a parachute. Why would we want to waste a parachute?”
Bergdahl’s attorneys have argued that Trump’s presumption of guilt has made it impossible for the former Army sergeant to get a fair trial, writing in a January court filing that the president had “transformed his rallies into a televised traveling lynch mob.”
The soldier’s attorneys have asked for the desertion charges to be dismissed.
Bergdahl had decided to forgo a trial by a military jury, opting instead for a judge to decide the case. By pleading guilty, Bergdahl would avoid a trial altogether.
The desertion charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the misbehavior charge carries a possible life sentence.
A guilty plea carries the possibility of a lighter sentence for Bergdahl, though it is not yet clear how much time he will face.
Sentencing is set to begin Oct. 23, according to the AP. It is not clear whether prosecutors and the defense have reached an agreement on the sentence prosecutors will request.
Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in 2009, when he was still a private first class.
The disappearance launched a search operation, in which some troops were badly injured. They are expected to testify at the sentencing hearing, the AP reported.
After five years in Taliban captivity, Bergdahl was released in exchange for five Taliban detainees who had been held at Guantánamo Bay.
Former President Obama defended the decision to trade the detainees for Bergdahl’s release, saying the U.S. has a responsibility not to leave its troops behind.
While Bergdahl’s attorneys have not challenged the assertion that he left his post without authorization, they have argued that he should not be held responsible for the decisions of others, such as the negotiation of his release from Taliban captivity.
Bergdahl has been assigned to desk duty at a military base in Texas.
Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s lawyer, declined to comment on the report.
—Updated at 11:49 a.m.