Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the well-known and highly criticized deserter who was later captured by the Taliban and exchanged by the Obama administration for several Taliban prisoners, is facing a trial concerning his actions several years ago.
The judge has decided to allow Bergdahl to be charged with endangering the lives of his comrades, a sentence that could land the deserter in prison for life if convicted. (via Business Insider)
Bergdahl’s unexpected desertion in Afghanistan back in 2009 led to a hastily planned search and recovery mission by his team to try and retrieve the sergeant. They did not know he had intended to desert.
Six people were killed during the mission, with many others wounded. Navy SEAL James Hatch testified that he was shot in the leg while searching for Bergdahl, an injury that ended his military career and required 18 surgeries for the wound.
Another soldier, Sgt. Mark Allen, was shot in the head while looking for Bergdahl, and suffers from severe brain damage as a result. He is now wheelchair-bound and is unable to communicate without assistance.
Stories such as these convinced Judge Col. Jeffery Nance to add the charge of misbehavior before the enemy for the defendant, which can carry a life sentence. He ruled that those service members who were injured during the mission would not have been wounded if they were not searching for Bergdahl.
The defense lawyers claimed that prosecutors used flawed logic to charge Bergdahl with a crime more serious than his actions, arguing that he shouldn’t be responsible for the independent actions of military personnel who were involved in the search.
The defense also argued that Trump’s public criticism of Bergdahl is preventing him from getting a fair trial.
The defense lawyers played part of a video showing Trump repeatedly saying at campaign appearances that Bergdahl is a traitor and that he deserves to be harshly punished. The defense lawyers made the argument that comments from the current president violate the due-process rights of Bergdahl and that the case should be dismissed on this basis.
Thankfully, the judge rejected these arguments. He claimed that military members must be held to a higher standard and said that serving in the armed forces is not like other jobs, stating, “Unlike the recalcitrant Wal-Mart employee, a service member really can earn himself a federal criminal conviction for repeatedly being late to work.” (via ABC News)
While the injury evidence will not be allowed at the guilt-or-innocence phase, the judge stated that the sentencing phase follows a different standard regarding evidence. Eric Carpenter, a legal scholar not involved with the case, stated that the decision regarding the injuries could be significant for the government.
According to Carpenter, “This evidence has already been excluded from the guilt phase of the trial, and if it is excluded during the sentencing phase, the heart of the government’s case will be gone,” and that “This might make the government more receptive to a deal.” (via New York Times)
Whether or not this does happen, the only thing we can do is wait and trust that justice will be carried out.