Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been accused by the U.S. Army and soldiers who served with him of abandoning his outpost in Afghanistan back in 2009, has been charged with “misbehavior before the enemy” in addition to desertion.
The “misbehavior” charge, which has seldom been used since World War II, carries a stiffer penalty in Bergdahl’s case when compared to desertion.
Bergdahl was charged with “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place” and prompting the military to launch search operations,” said the Army in a statement, adding that the charge carries a potential life sentence.
However, USA Today reports that “Legal analysts said it was likely Bergdahl would reach an agreement that would result in a light punishment.”
Soldiers who served with Bergdahl have said that the search for the accused deserter endangered other troops and diverted resources from other units.
Bergdahl has also been accused of “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty,” a charge that carries a potential five-year sentence, noted the Army statement.
“His case now goes to an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a grand jury and would recommend whether the case goes to a court martial,” reports USA Today.
A “convening authority” will ultimately make the decision whether to refer to a court martial.
“The charge sheet offers a glimpse of what the Army alleges Bergdahl did on June 30, 2009, the day he disappeared,” points out USA Today.
The “misbehavior before the enemy” charge “alleges that Bergdahl endangered the safety of troops at Observation Post Mest in Paktika Province by walking away and causing the military to launch ‘search and recovery operations,’” adds the article.
Under the desertion charge, Bergdahl is accused of being a deserter until about May 31, 2014, the day he was traded for the Taliban terrorists.
Cody Full, 28, Bergdahl’s former platoon mate, and Evan Buetow, 28, who was the sergeant and team leader of Bergdahl’s unit, welcomed the new charge levied against the accused deserter.
“You give an oath,” Full told USA Today. “You sign your name to serve your country no matter what you’re supposed to fill that oath.”
“The whole reason we came forward last year when they released Bowe, we knew he needed to answer for what he did,” added Buetow. “We knew he was not a hero… He had to answer for why he deserted, and that’s what happened.”
Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, asked that government officials stop leaking information that could negatively impact his client’s right to a fair trial, urging Americans to hold judgment until all the facts surface.
“Misbehavior before the enemy was used hundreds of times during World War II, but scholars say its use appears to have dwindled in conflicts since then,” notes The Associated Press (AP).
Bergdahl was taken hostage by the Taliban after he left his post in Afghanistan.
He was eventually released in a controversial exchange for five senior Taliban commanders held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. President Obama approved the exchange.
The president violated the law by not notifying lawmakers 30 days prior to transferring the five Taliban commanders out of Guantanamo, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ investigative arm.
Bergdahl was charged with desertion in March.
According to the Army, the alleged deserter remains at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and is not currently under arrest or any form of confinement.