Bergdahl expected to plead guilty today

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Bergdahl expected to plead guilty today

In the words of the Greatful Dead, what a long strange trip it’s been.

Recall that Bergdahl walked off his post in 2009, eight years ago.  According to recordings provided for the podcast Serial, he alleges he was leaving to go report….something, what isn’t entirely clear:

Later, the meaning of the episode's title is revealed when the soldier describes his reasons for walking off his base, which he said was to create a "DUSTWUN" — short for duty status whereabouts unknown; a radio call issued when a soldier goes missing in combat or is taken captive. Bergdahl claims his actions were intended to call attention to a larger issue: his serious concerns over leadership in the military.

"What I was seeing from my first unit, all the way up into Afghanistan… was basically leadership failure to the point that the lives of the guys standing next to me were literally — from what I could see — in danger of something seriously going wrong and somebody being killed," Bergdahl says in one of the taped interviews with Boal.

"As a private first class, nobody is going to listen to me," Bergdahl says. The soldier claims he tried to create the DUSTWUN so that top officials could no longer ignore his concerns and would be forced to investigate the situation. At the same time he was well aware that he would probably be imprisoned over the action.

Having served in that area, this is a bananaland idea.  It was 30k at least, through terrain that is unimaginable, and teeming with bad guys.  Plus, at any point he could have reported it himself, or even contrived to get a trip to Sharana, the destination of his ill-conceived walkabout.  (To get a feel for the terrain, Serial has a really good video showing the terrain.)

Bergdahl was of course captured, and then released 5 years later in a prisoner swap that was criticized heavily:

A new congressional report details what Republicans call a deception surrounding a controversial 2014 prisoner swap, suggesting the release of five Taliban prisoners in exchange for American captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had an ulterior motive: helping President Obama get closer to his goal of shutting down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After a year-and-a-half-long investigation, the House Armed Services Committee’s Republican majority also renewed assertions that the decision to send the senior Taliban figures to Qatar, a move that took place just hours after Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed from Taliban captivity, without notifying Congress violated several laws. It also misled lawmakers in a way that “severely harmed” the administration’s ties with lawmakers, the report found.

The prisoner exchange, which was pulled off under tight secrecy, ignited a storm of criticism whose effects are visible today, as the White House struggles to build congressional support for resettling some Guantanamo prisoners overseas and bringing others to the United States. While administration officials hope to help Obama deliver on his promise to close Guantanamo Bay before he leaves office, lawmakers appear unlikely to drop long-standing their opposition.

He was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and (if reports are correct) will be pleading guilty today:

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty Monday to charges that he endangered comrades by walking away from a remote post in Afghanistan in 2009.

The U.S. Army said Bergdahl asked to enter his plea before the military judge at Fort Bragg. The Associated Press previously reported that he's expected to plead guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

It's not clear if Bergdahl, 31, has a deal with prosecutors to limit his punishment, or if he's simply pleading guilty in hopes of leniency from the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the desertion charge is punishable by up to five years.

But for Bergdahl, this case was one of those that actually came down to the way the pretrial motions went, two in particular that the defense lost on.

First, last Novermber the judge allowed pre-trial testimony (and would presumably have allowed it during the trial) from service-members who were injured or saw people injured during the search:

A military officer testified Monday that he saw another soldier shot in the head during the 2009 search for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who's accused of endangering his comrades when he walked off his post in Afghanistan…

Prosecutors are arguing that the judge should allow evidence of two wounded soldiers' injuries into the case to help them show that Bergdahl's disappearance effectively put other military members in harm's way.

And then this summer the judge squashed an attempt by the defense to ask jurors whether they voted for President Trump:

The judge overseeing the trial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl decided Thursday that potential jurors will not be asked in a pretrial questionnaire whether they voted for Donald Trump. It will, however, still contain questions about Trump and whether they have posted on social media about Bergdahl.

During last year's presidential campaign, Trump on numerous occasions in his stump speeches referred to Bergdahl as a "dirty, rotten traitor" and a "bum," among other terms, as he decried the exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bergdahl's release from Taliban captivity in Afghanistan.

This second one in particular led to the Defense asking the judge to decide the case, rather than a jury.

Pretty much the only defense left was an insanity type plea, and there must be some reason they didn’t go with that.  Or, even more likely, they managed to work out something with the prosecution that will put an end to all of this without Bergdahl spending life in jail, and sparing the circus that a trial would generate.  I’ll update this when we find out which it is.

UPDATE:  He has now plead guilty.

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy via his attorney Monday.

Bergdahl disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held in captivity by the Taliban until May 2014.
"I left my observation post on my own," Bergdahl told a judge Monday. "I understand leaving was against the law."
The 31-year-old said he deserted from his outpost to try to reach the base from where he was dispatched. Bergdahl told the judge he wanted to report "a critical problem in my chain of command," but did not specify what that problem was. 
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Col. Nance should have read the code of conduct over and over. This was a slap in the face to every service member that has served, This Butt head was not held against his will but was a turn coat. I hope Col Nance you can truly live with your sentence!!!

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.