Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was ordered to face a court-martial to answer to charges of desertion and endangering other troops when he disappeared from his combat post in Afghanistan in June of 2009. The trial could begin as soon as May, making it two years after the White House’s controversial swap of five Taliban prisoners for the soldier. If he is found guilty of these charges, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The court-martial decision was made Monday by General Robert B. Abrams, commander of Army Forces Command at Ft. Bragg, NC. The order came as a surprise considering that the lawyer who presided over Bergdahl’s initial hearing originally recommended a lower-level court martial with no jail time. Abrams has not yet explained why he is now calling for the more serious charges.
Some officials are arguing that Bergdahl suffered enough during his five years in Taliban captivity, but many feel that these charges are an appropriate measure for the seriousness of desertion.
Bergdahl has largely avoided public comment, but in an interview featured on the “Serial” podcast last week, he explained that the reason he left the base was to alert military commanders of a “leadership failure” in his unit. He described how he felt no one would listen to him or take his concerns seriously.
Bergdahl’s interview could have been the reason behind the decision to seek the court-martial. Former Marine Corps lawyer Eric S. Montalvo, of The Federal Practice Group, agreed, saying “there are certain basic rules in defense… the most important rule is that the client just needs to be quiet.”
“When [Berghdahl] says words to the effect of, ‘I did it because’ – well, you’ve just said you did it,” adds Montalvo. “We don’t care why you did it, buddy – the crime is that you did it.”
Montalvo also believes that the misbehavior charges Bergdahl is now facing are indicative of the Army’s attempt to “pile on” charges that are not usually sought.
Bergdahl has been called “young, naïve, and inexperienced” by those who initially investigated his case.