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Judge Won't Allow Evidence of Soldier Injuries While Searching for Bowe Bergdahl

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Bowe Bergdahl in a photo taken prior to his alleged desertion and capture in 2009. He was promoted twice in absentia from private first-class to the rank of sergeant. - U.S. ARMY
  • U.S. Army
  • Bowe Bergdahl in a photo taken prior to his alleged desertion and capture in 2009. He was promoted twice in absentia from private first-class to the rank of sergeant.
U.S. Army Sergeant and Idaho native Bowe Bergdahl is ending 2016 pretty much the way he began it, with another court appearance.

Facing a 2017 court martial hearing stemming from his alleged desertion from a combat post in Afghanistan and subsequent capture by the Taliban in 2009, a central piece of the case against Bergdahl has long been whether his actions caused harm to fellow soldiers.

A military judge said Dec. 16 that while Bergdahl bears some responsibility for injuries sustained by U.S. troops in their search for him, "Sgt. Bergdahl is not responsible for a never-ending chain of events" resulting in wounds to service members engaged in the risky—and, the defense argues, hastily or shoddily planned—search missions.

Citing concerns that jurors would be unfairly prejudiced by graphic evidence of the combat injuries, U.S. Army Colonel Jeffrey Nance, who is serving as judge, ruled he won't allow evidence indicating soldiers were seriously injured while searching for Bergdahl, the Associated Press reported. He noted that prosecutors have “ample evidence” that numerous search operations were undertaken, and many of them brought service members in contact with enemy forces.

Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 from his post in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan and was soon after captured by the Taliban. He spent five years as a captive before he was freed in May 2014
in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. The prisoner swap angered some in Congress as well as numerous members of his former unit. After an investigation into the circumstances of his capture, Bergdahl, was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted, the Hailey native could face life in prison.

Nance on Friday also said he would not require government intelligence officials to take the stand during Bergdahl's court martial. The judge said intelligence experts had been cooperative in providing classified evidence regarding the case.

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