comscore Bergdahl to be court-martialed under new commander-in-chief | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Bergdahl to be court-martialed under new commander-in-chief

  • Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, center, arrived at the Fort Bragg courtroom facility for an arraignment hearing today at Fort Bragg, N.C. The hearing could result in his court-martial being moved until after this fall’s elections. (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

FORT BRAGG, N.C. » Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his combat outpost in Afghanistan and spent five years in captivity, will be court-martialed under a new commander-in-chief.

A military judge decided today to delay Bergdahl’s trial from August until February to provide time for resolving disputes over the defense team’s access to classified documents.

Bergdahl, now 30, sat attentively in his dress blue formal uniform, his infantry cord looped under the epaulet on his right shoulder, during the brief hearing. The soldier from Hailey, Idaho, faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter charge is relatively rare and carries the potential of life in prison.

A February start would mean the court-martial could make headlines only weeks after the new commander-in-chief is sworn in as president.

Given the shape of the campaign so far, that will likely mean either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be in charge of the military.

Bergdahl’s defense says the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has already damaged his chances for a fair trial by calling him a “dirty, rotten traitor,” who “should have been executed.”

The judge, Col. Jeffrey Nance, also ruled that media organizations could hire a stenographer to capture courtroom discussions during the trial, and he gave Army prosecutors one week to provide reporters covering the case with online access to court documents.

The judge postponed deciding a dispute that could influence how much punishment Bergdahl could face if convicted.

The Army’s primary investigating officer last year recommended against Bergdahl facing jail time, saying there is no evidence that any service members were killed or wounded searching for him in Afghanistan. A preliminary hearing officer recommended against a bad-conduct discharge.

But those recommendations were scrapped in December by the general overseeing the case. Gen. Robert Abrams, who leads the Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, instead sided with an Army lawyer’s recommendation for a general court-martial.

Bergdahl’s defense lawyers contend that the Army lawyer’s advice to Abrams was so incomplete that it misled the four-star general. Nance did not explain why he opted against taking up the issue today.

Bergdahl was quickly captured after walking off his combat post in Afghanistan in 2009, and held as a prisoner by the Taliban and its allies until President Barack Obama exchanged five Guantanamo Bay detainees for his safe return, saying the U.S. “does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”

Obama’s decision was harshly criticized. Some members of Congress said it jeopardized national security. Trump has targeted Bergdahl for scorn dozens of times on the campaign trail, saying among other things that he should have been thrown from a plane.

The defense’s complaints about Trump have no bearing on the case right now, according to Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer who teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. But if he is elected in November and keeps up his harsh comments, the defense could more effectively argue that a President Trump is unfairly pressuring Army brass for a conviction, she said.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials have been notified that threats against Bergdahl continue.

“Given the many incendiary comments that have been broadcast and otherwise disseminated about Sgt. Bergdahl, his immediate commander at Fort Sam Houston has taken measures to ensure his physical safety when leaving the installation,” his attorneys wrote in February.

A spokesman at the Texas post declined to describe these measures, citing security considerations. But as “a group of soldiers, battle buddies, we all look out for each other,” Sgt. Maj. Matt Howard said.

Bergdahl can come and go the same as any other soldier from Fort Sam Houston, where he works a desk job in a headquarters unit, handling “a lot of administrative work that needs to be done. Paperwork, moving stuff from place to place, things like that,” Howard said.

Comments (28)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

    • The Obama Administration has always claimed it was forced to make an end run around Congress in negotiating Bergdahl’s release because he was supposedly in deteriorating health and also that the window of opportunity to agree to the prisoner trade was in danger of closing. Perhaps we’ll all learn the truth of this fiasco if Bergdahl’s defense team can get certain now secret documents and e-mail correspondence declassified.

  • Clinton and Obama really dislike the military. They pretend that they care with allot of rhetoric . If given a chance Obama would love to pardon this guy.
    If convicted he should be executed. His actions have caused the deaths of fellow soldiers who were trying to rescue him. Shame on Bergdahl and his family.
    Obama looked like a fool parading them around for the media to see. As usual Obama did not do his homework and made a big mistake. Freeing 5 hardened terrorists
    to return to the battlefield to kill more Americans and innocent people so that this coward could go free.

    • The war didn’t really impact the flow of heroin from the poppy fields there, did it. Now that would have been a victory.

      Barry figured, if he didn’t like the military then the war would end.
      Sorta tells you what kind of reasoning skills he possesses. Exactly what was needed to keep the wars he got the noble peace prize in advice of the eight years for continuing for eight years. See what happens when a narcissist’s flawed thought process becomes national policy.

      • IRT Mythman. You clearly and concisely hit the nail on the head. It was all about little Barry and his fragile ego. It was done to demoralize the troops and send a message of support to those he and his party openly sympathize with. And to add insult to injury he invites Bergdahls’s parents to the Rose Garden to crow about his brilliantly conceived prisoner exchange. The whole thing is a national disgrace.

    • Among Military Personnel O had a 35% favorable at 2009…at the end of 2014 O’s favorable number was at 15%..UNfavorable was at 55%…I shudder to think what it is now!

  • Barrack traded five of the most dangerous men at Guantanamo for this traitor. OneBigAssMistakeAmerica should have been impeached years ago, now with the information being revealed about the Iranian deal, it appears he should also be in prison. He has jeopardized American security, and subverted the constitution so many times, and the press has just decided to plead the 5th. Welcome to America 2016. We used to be free, and we used to be brave. Now, it seems we’ve decided that homosexuality is the most important aspect of life.

  • He should be confined pending the disposition of his case….not coming and going as any other soldiers…..I imagine this must be insulting to other soldiers who served honorably and to see him coming and going just like nothing has happened…….

    • Bowe Bergdahl can come and go the same as any other soldier from Fort Sam Houston, where he works a desk job in a headquarters unit, handling “a lot of administrative work that needs to be done. Paperwork, moving stuff from place to place, things like that,” Sergeant Major Matt Howard said.

  • Let’s be correct on this—Obama is to blame for the exchange of prisoners–the trial date is moved to February so as not to embarrass HIM!!! He’s be out making those $500,000 speeches then!!!

  • I do not understand why Bergdahl is allowed to roam freely around Fort Sam Houston and even leave the installation accompanied by some form of security detail. He should be in pre-trial confinement where he will be protected from anyone wanting to do him harm and to keep him from fleeing to Mexico to avoid a possible sentence of life in prison. He has already demonstrated that he is capable of fleeing from his unit. Why risk it again?

  • President Barack Obama exchanged five Guantanamo Bay detainees for his safe return, saying the U.S. “does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”

  • Bad move for Bergdahl. Appears Obama does not want to have him courtmartialed under his watch and put in a position of maybe having Bergdahl
    swinging in the wind and asking for clemency. A court-martial if it happens under a possible President Trump would be bad indeed for Bergdahl as he will definitely be sentenced to a long term in Levingworth which he would deserve anyway.

  • It’s been 2 years since Bergdahl was exchanged for the Guantanamo prisoners. Why is the trial taking so long? He should not be walking around wearing a military uniform and collecting pay and benefits for his act of cowardice and treason.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up