This is a breaking news story.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Monday said he is pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after deserting his post in Afghanistan and being held captive by the Taliban for 5 years.
CNN reported that during questioning from a judge at Fort Bragg on Monday, Bergdahl said: “I left my observation post on my own. […] I understand leaving was against the law.”
Bergdahl, now 31, faced charges of desertion and endangering fellow soldiers, and misbehavior before the enemy. He could face up to five years for the desertion charge and a life sentence for misbehavior.
A guilty plea meant Bergdahl would not face a trial. He had already decided to let a judge – and not a military jury – render a verdict. It is not clear if Bergdahl’s lawyers have a plea agreement in place to limit his punishment.
Sentencing will start Oct. 23, individuals with knowledge of the case had told the Associated Press. Bergdahl’s trial had been scheduled for late October.
After Bergdahl left his post in 2009, he was held as a Taliban prisoner until 2014, when the Obama Administration was able to get him back to the United States through a prisoner swap. Bergdahl was released in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said Bergdahl was “a dirty rotten traitor” for leaving his post and endangering the lives of others, and that he should “face the death penalty.” Five soldiers died while looking for Bergdahl.
The Associated Press had reported:
Bergdahl was a 23-year-old private first class in June 2009 when, after five months in Afghanistan, he disappeared from his remote infantry post near the Pakistan border, triggering a massive search operation. […]
The decision by the 31-year-old Idaho native leaves open whether he will return to captivity for years — this time in a U.S. prison — or receive a lesser sentence that reflects the time the Taliban held him under brutal conditions. He says he had been caged, kept in darkness, beaten and chained to a bed. […]
Sentencing will start on Oct. 23, according to the individuals with knowledge of the case. They weren’t authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity. During sentencing, U.S. troops who were seriously wounded searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan are expected to testify, the individuals said.
It was unclear whether prosecutors and Bergdahl’s defense team had reached any agreement ahead of sentencing about how severe a penalty prosecutors will recommend.