Attorneys for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl released statement and a thirteen page letter that refused to offer any explanation as to how or why the soldier left his base in a combat zone. The letter offers many arguments as to why he should be charged with the lessor offense of being on an unauthorized absence (UA) but nothing about his motivations for leaving.
In the statement (attached below), Bergdahl’s attorneys wrote that the sergeant was being charged under Articles 85 and 99 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Article 85 is the section relating to desertion and Article 99 details the military law related to misbehavior before the enemy.
Instead of offering an explanation for the sergeant’s decision to leave his post, the attorneys focus on Birgdahl’s treatment while he was in the custody of the Taliban. The letter describes Bergdahl as often being sick and battling infections. It says he was frequently kept in isolation for the duration of his captivity.
Bergdahl faces a prison sentence of up to five years if he is convicted on the charge of desertion. The Article 99 charge of misbehavior before the enemy is a capital offense where Bergdahl could face the death penalty or a prison sentence of up to life in prison. While capital punishment might sound extreme, six soldiers allegedly died while searching for Bergdahl after he fled his post in Afghanistan, according to a Breitbart News article by AWR Hawkins. The defense disputes this point.
Next, Bergdahl will face an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury. No date has been set for the hearing. Following the outcome of the Article 32 hearing, a General Court-Martial would be held where Bergdahl would be tried on the charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The trial would be held in Texas at Fort Sam Houston. Bergdahl is currently assigned to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
Bergdahl’s attorneys were critical of the Army for releasing a June, 2009 email that the sergeant sent to his family where he said he was ashamed to be an American. The attorneys compared the statement to the brash comments made by Army Lieutenant Philip Nolan, who denounced his American citizenship and was sentenced to shipboard imprisonment as told in the classic short story, “The Man Without a County” by Edward Everett Hale in 1863. The attorney’s made the comparison that the brash youthful comments do not reflect the soldier’s current state of mind.
The attorneys quote a report from Major General Kenneth Dahl and dismissed the allegations that soldiers died while searching for Bergdahl. “The report properly dismisses a variety of contentions that have been made about Sgt. Bergdahl,” the attorney’s wrote in the letter. “No, he was not planning to walk to China or India. No, there is no evidence that any Soldier died searching for him. No, there is no evidence of misbehavior of any kind while he was held captive. Nor is there any credible evidence that Sgt. Bergdahl in order to get in touch with the Taliban.”
No date has been set for the Article 32 hearing at this time. If Bergdahl is charged in the Article 32 hearing, the General Court-Martial would be months after that. Breitbart Texas will continue to monitor and report on the Army’s proceedings against Sgt. Bergdahl.