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Bergdahl Ordered to Face Court-Martial Hearing, Possible Life in Prison


  • U.S. Army

Less than a week after millions of Americans began tuning into the podcast Serial, which details U.S. Army Sergeant and Idaho native Bowe Bergdahl's account of his controversial prisoner of war ordeal, the U.S. Army announced Dec. 14 that Bergdahl would face a court-martial hearing on charges of desertion and endangering U.S. troops.

Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 from a combat post in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. He spent five years as a POW before he was freed in May 2014 following a prisoner swap that angered members of Congress and some members of his former unit. The Hailey native was released in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay.

After an investigation into the circumstances of his capture, Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy—counts that could lead to life in prison. Bergdahl's legal proceedings were far from over: a recommendation involving his case was forwarded to General Robert Abrams, head of Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. On Monday, Abrams ordered the general court-martial proceedings, meaning the 29-year-old Bergdahl faces a possible life sentence.

Bergdahl's chief defense lawyer, Eugene Fidell, issued a statement in response to Abrams' decision, saying the general “did not follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer who heard the witnesses,” adding that a hearing officer had previously recommended against a prison sentence.

The date for the court-martial hearing has yet to be announced.