Defense to push for leniency for U.S.
Army deserter Bergdahl
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[October 31, 2017]
By Greg Lacour
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) - Lawyers for
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will build their case on Tuesday for
why he should be spared prison time for walking off his Afghanistan post
in June 2009 and endangering the troops who searched for him.
The 31-year-old soldier, a polarizing figure who spent years in
captivity and was released in a 2014 Taliban prisoner swap brokered by
Democratic President Barack Obama's administration, took the stand at
his sentencing hearing on Monday.
The Idaho native faces up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty on
Oct. 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He has no plea
agreement with prosecutors, leaving his sentence up to Army Colonel
Bergdahl gave nearly two hours of unsworn statements, meaning
prosecutors did not get to question him. He discussed his mental health
and the torture and neglect he endured after being captured by the
Taliban, factors the defense hope will earn him leniency.
"The worst was the constant deterioration of everything — the pain from
my body falling apart, the constant internal screams from all the
darkness and light and everything I had to deal with," Bergdahl said at
North Carolina's Fort Bragg.
The military judge ruled on Monday that disparaging comments made by
Republican President Donald Trump about Bergdahl had not affected the
fairness of the court proceedings.
During last year's presidential campaign, Trump called Bergdahl "a
no-good traitor who should have been executed," and the defense said the
president endorsed such comments in more recent remarks.
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U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after the
fourth day of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort
Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan
Nance said he was not influenced by the statements and would render
a just sentence. The judge said, however, he would consider the
president's remarks as a mitigating factor.
The judge also will weigh aggravating evidence presented during the
past week by prosecutors.
Multiple service members spoke of the hazardous conditions they
faced in the futile search for Bergdahl, who says he deserted his
duties to report "critical problems" in his chain of command.
Several soldiers fell ill or were badly injured during hastily
organized missions to find him. Master Sergeant Mark Allen, the most
critically hurt, suffered a debilitating brain injury that left him
unable to speak or walk after being shot in the head in July 2009.
(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by
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