What is the status of the Bowe Bergdahl Court Martial?
As has widely been reported, Bowe Bergdahl may not face jail time or a punitive discharge for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. In fact, the Army officer who presided over last month’s preliminary hearing recommended the case should be moved to a lower level that limits a maximum conviction to one year in prison.
Special Court Martial
Bergdahl’s defense team believes this case will be handled as a Special Court Martial. These cases are similar to misdemeanor cases in the civilian system. The maximum penalties include one year of jail time, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge. If the general court martial standing was in play, Bergdahl could face a maximum life sentence for the misbehavior charge and 5 years in jail or desertion.
In Defense of Bowe Bergdahl
According to these reports, there are mitigating factors in favor of Bergdahl. His capture by the Taliban connected Haqquani network is seen as a kidnapping. Also, during this time witnesses claim that he was subject to 5 years of torment by “psychopathic sadists.”
Bergdahl was captured by within hours after leaving the post. During his captivity, he was beaten with hoses and chains, tied spread-eagled to a bed until his muscles atrophied, starved, humiliated and kept in a cage. If this evidence goes unchallenged Bergdahl may be spared confinement.
This testimony portrays him as a sympathetic figure, contrary to public speculation about the case and some media reports. As for his alleged desertion, there is evidence that he was suffering some form of emotional distress (Bergdahl was discharged from initial Coast Guard training in 2008 for depression and “failure to adapt”).
The Possible Outcome
The presiding officer’s recommendation is only that. The prosecutor could disregard this recommendation and proceed with a general court martial, but the mitigating evidence may make this an “uphill battle” for the prosecutor. Bergdahl’s fate is now at the wide discretion of Army Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams.