An Army officer is recommending that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl face a lower-level court martial and be spared the possibility of jail time for leaving his post in Afghanistan, his lawyer said Saturday.
Military prosecutors charged Bergdahl in March with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, a charge that could carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
But defense attorney Eugene Fidell said Lt. Col. Mark Visger has recommended that Sgt. Bergdahl’s case be referred to a special court martial, which is a misdemeanor-level forum. It limits the maximum punishment to reduction in rank, a bad-conduct discharge and a term of up to a year in prison.
Fidell also said that Visger recommended that there be no prison time or punitive discharge against Bergdahl. In light of Visger’s recommendations, the defense is asking that the case be disposed of non-judicially, rather than by any court martial.
Visger presided over last month’s Article 32 hearing in Texas that reviewed evidence against Bergdahl. Visger submitted a report with his recommendation on Monday, but the Army hadn’t said what Visger recommended.
Gen. Robert Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, will ultimately decide whether the case should be referred to a court-martial. No timeline has been given for a decision from Abrams.
“These are highly discretionary matters and, needless to say, I hope General Abrams does the right thing, but it’s his call,” Fidell said by phone Saturday.
Paul Boyce, a spokesman for the U.S. Army’s Force Command, released a statement Saturday that didn’t confirm Visger’s decision.
“As legal action is ongoing, we continue to maintain careful respect for the military-judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality,” Boyce said.
Philip Cave, a retired Navy judge advocate now in private practice in Virginia, said commanders often follow the officer’s recommendation.
“The real issue here is the politics. That’s the elephant in the room. How much is Abrams going to be affected by the politics?” Cave said. “I think the answer is, fairly little at this point.”
Fidell released a memorandum addressed to Visger. It said the defense team is “grateful for the balanced, judicious, and humane approach you have taken to this complex case, and for the evenhanded way you conducted the public hearing.”
It added that Visger’s report should be made public “so the American people can be fully informed of your findings.”
“The pity is, there’s no reason for not having transparency,” Fidell said Saturday, adding that Bergdahl’s defense team planned to file a written appeal next week seeking to have the full report released. “It’s a self-inflicted wound for the Army.”
They are handling this case with kid gloves and the only reason I can see for doing that is because they got orders from the top to be gentle with this prize O got in his traitorous trade for the 5 Taliban leaders that he set free.
The story goes that Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban after leaving his post on June 30, 2009, and held until last year, but by all appearances it looks like he walked away and joined them. His commanding officers in Afghanistan did a 45-day search for Bergdahl that put soldiers in danger and cost six of them their lives.
That Visger is grateful for the humane approach and the team is careful to protect the rights of the accused, says that extenuating circumstances are a factor, and that screams string pulling from O’s admin.
While Trump is saying that he should be executed and many will agree with him, at the very least his punishment should include prison time. They owe six soldiers that much.