DECIDED TO PLEA GUILTY, FACES PRISON
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for half a decade after abandoning his Afghanistan post, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, two individuals with knowledge of the case said.
Bergdahl’s decision to plead guilty rather than face trial marks another twist in an eight-year drama that caused the nation to wrestle with difficult questions of loyalty, negotiating with hostage takers and America’s commitment not to leave its troops behind. President Donald Trump has called Bergdahl a “no-good traitor” who “should have been executed.”
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.
Bergdahl could face up to five years on the desertion charge and a life sentence for misbehavior.
Freed three years ago, Bergdahl had been scheduled for trial in late October. He had opted to let a judge rather than a military jury decide his fate, but a guilty plea later this month will spare the need for a trial.
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.