If Found Guilty, Bergdahl Could Face Life in Prison


By Debbie Gregory.

As a result of his 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan, it was announced that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face general court-martial, the highest level of trial in the military justice system.

Bergdahl, 29, is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and could receive a sentence of life in prison. While desertion can carry a death penalty, Army officials have said that will not occur in Bergdahl’s case. No American service member has been executed for desertion since World War II.

Lt. Col. Mark Visger, who oversaw a two-day hearing for Bergdahl’s case in September,
had recommended that Bergdahl get a lower form of judicial proceeding known as a special court-martial, which would have given a maximum penalty of 12 months of confinement.

Bergdahl’s return was secured through a prisoner swap in 2014, which resulted in the release of five Taliban officials from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bergdahl broke his silence last week when he participated in a podcast on “Serial.” He said that within 20 minutes of leaving his base, he had second thoughts, and realized he would face a “hurricane of wrath” from commanding officers. Berghdahl hoped he could find some intelligence that would allow the Army to go easier on him, but got lost in the hills, and then he was captured by the Taliban.

“Doing what I did is me saying that I am like, I don’t know, Jason Bourne. I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing,” Bergdahl said.

Jason Bourne is a fictional character who is an elite Top Secret Special Forces operative in a series of novels by Robert Ludlum.

Jon Thurman, a former enlisted specialist in Bergdahl’s infantry company, said that he wasn’t surprised by the Army going forward with a general court-martial. Thurman, who was interviewed for “Serial,” speculated that Bergdahl’s comments in the podcast could hurt his case.

“When that first episode aired, I mean, he sort of hung himself by saying that he walked off and was kinda thinking about doing his own Jason Bourne thing,” Thurman said. “The guilty verdict might come from just that.”

An arraignment hearing will be held at a later date at Fort Bragg, Army officials said. Bergdahl is assigned to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, with a desk job.

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