WASHINGTON, DC — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years after leaving his remote post in Afghanistan, was charged by the United States Army with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The misbehavior charge carries a potential life sentence, the Army said in a statement, but legal analysts said it was likely Bergdahlwould reach an agreement that would result in a light punishment. Bergdahl was released from captivity after the United States agreed to release five Taliban militants held at Guantanamo Bay.
He was charged with “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place,” according to the Army statement. Soldiers who served with Bergdahlcriticised the prisoner swap, saying Bergdahl abandoned his post. They said the search for Bergdahl put other troops at risk and diverted resources from other units. “The Army did the right thing here,” said Cody Full, 26, a former platoon mate of Bergdahl’s.
“You give an oath,” Full said. “You sign your name to serve your country; no matter what you’re supposed to fulfill that oath.””The whole reason we came forward last year when they released Bowe, we knew he needed to answer for what he did,” Full said. “We knew he was not a hero. … He had to answer for why he deserted, and that’s what happened.”
Evan Buetow, 28, who was a sergeant and team leader of Bergdahl’s unit, said he was pleased to see the charges brought.”The whole reason we came forward last year when they released Bowe, we knew he needed to answer for what he did,” he said. “We knew he was not a hero. … He had to answer for why he deserted, and that’s what happened.”
Bergdahl was also charged with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty,” which carries a potential five-year sentence, according to the Army statement.
Legal experts said it is unlikely Bergdahl will end up with a lengthy prison sentence because of what he went through.
“I cannot see him getting monster sentence,” said John Economidy, former Air Force judge advocate general. “I could see him getting a dishonorable discharge.” 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. A “convening authority” then makes a decision whether to refer to a court martial. “At any stage, he could offer to plead to a lesser charge,” said Gary Barthel, a former Marine Corps lawyer. Another option is to resign in lieu of a court martial. Unless he reaches a deal that provides him with a general discharge, he could lose veteran benefits. The military charges someone with desertion when a service member leaves and allegedly intends to stay away. AWOL is a less serious offense in which a servicemember leaves temporarily, intending to return. (USA Today).