Bergdahl pleads guilty to desertion, misbehavior

UPDATE 2 — 11/3, 1:19 p.m. EDT: A Fort Bragg, N.C., military judge ruled Friday that Bowe Bergdahl will receive a dishonerable discharge from the U.S. Army, but will serve no prison time for deserting his post during combat operations in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl has also been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and will be reduced in rank to E1 from sergeant.  President Trump responded by tweeting the judge’s decision “is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

According to a defense witness, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Charles Morgan, Bergdahl suffers from PTSD and schizotypal personality disorder, of which symptoms can include acute social anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations. 

 

UPDATE — 10/22, 11:13 a.m. EDT: Speaking for the first time since he plead guilty to military misconduct last week, Bowe Bergdahl gave an interview published by the Sunday Times of London in which he indicated the Taliban is more “honest” than the U.S. Army.

“At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, ‘I’m the guy who’s gonna cut your throat,’” he said. “Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who’s going to sign the paper that sends me away for life.”

On being captured by the enemy and living in a metal cage for three of the five years, Bergdahl said: “I thought I could either die here or die escaping. . . . It wasn’t a case of being scared of dying. It was a case of embracing the fact that I was a dead man.”

 

Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Afghanistan post in 2009 and was held in captivity by the Taliban for five years, entered a guilty plea during a Monday hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Standing before the judge in the case, Colonel Jeffery R. Nance, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

A charge of misbehavior before the enemy carries a life sentence; a charge of desertion carries a penalty of five-year imprisonment.

Six American servicemen were allegedly killed during operations mounted to locate Bergdahl.

Describing his capture and expressing he never intended to imperil the safety of his fellow soldiers, Bergdahl told the court:

“I left my observation post on my own.  I understand leaving was against the law. I was captured by the enemy against my will.  At the time I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations. . . . It’s very inexcusable.”

Bergdahl also explained his aim leaving his post was to reach a larger American outpost to report problems in his “chain of command,” but did not expand on the command difficulties.

Bergdahl was released on May 31, 2014, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners jailed at Guantanamo Bay.

Although it is not clear whether Bergdahl’s guilty plea was part of a negotiated agreement with prosecutors, attorneys for Bergdahl had argued for a dismissal of the charges over comments made by then-candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On the campaign trial in October 2015, Trump told a Las Vegas crowd Bergdahl was a “no-good traitor” and in a bygone era Bergdahl’s behavior would have earned him a place in front of a firing squad.

Despite appeals by his counsel the remarks would inhibit a fair trial, Nance told the court Trump’s pre-presidency remarks held no undue influence over the trial.

Bergdahl is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 23.

 

Editor’s note: The fourth paragraph of this article has been corrected.

 

[NPR] [CNN] [Photo courtesy AP via ABCNews]