Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy charges to a military judge that may land him in prison for life.
Bergdahl was held captive by the Taliban for five years before President Obama struck a deal freeing five Islamic jihadi detainees from Guantanamo, Cuba in exchange for Bergdahl. In a statement to the judge, Bergdahl admitted his guilt without striking a deal with Army prosecutors, which leaves his punishment up to a military judge.
“I understand that leaving was against the law,” said Bergdahl, he said.
The guilty pleas bring the highly politicized saga closer to an end eight years after Bergdahl vanished. President Barack Obama brought him home in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, saying the U.S. does not leave its service members on the battlefield. Republicans roundly criticized Obama and Donald Trump went farther while campaigning for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” who deserved to be executed by firing squad or thrown out of a plane without a parachute.
Bergdahl, now 31, told the judge, Col. Jeffrey R. Nance, on Monday that he now understands that his decision to walk off his remote post in 2009 prompted intense search and recovery missions, during which some service members were seriously wounded. After Bergdahl said he understands that he could be sentenced to life in prison, Nance accepted his pleas.
A military probe began as soon as Bergdahl was freed by allies of the Taliban. He said he abandoned his post with the intention of reaching other commanders and drawing attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
Bergdahl’s guilty plea without a deal in place could be a risky proposition since the misbehavior charges can bring a life sentence. Several troops were killed and wounded in operations searching for him once he walked off the base.
Bergdahl who was a PFC at the time of his disappearance claimed that he attempted to escape over a dozen times from the Taliban with one such an attempt lasting a week.
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