By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty Monday morning to charges that he deserted his eastern Afghanistan combat post and misbehaved before the enemy, endangering his fellow troops.
The former Taliban captive entered his pleas to both charges without reaching an agreement with the Army to cap his sentence, defense attorneys said during a pre-trial hearing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. That will leave his fate entirely in the hands of the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance.
Bergdahl, 31, faces a potential life sentence from the more serious misbehavior charge. The desertion charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
The soldier’s plea sets up a pre-sentence trial expected to begin Oct. 23 at the Army post. That trial is expected to include potentially dramatic testimony about three servicemembers seriously injured on search and rescue missions launched in the weeks after Bergdahl’s disappearance in June 2009.
Bergdahl admitted walking off Observation Post Mest in an attempt to walk to a nearby forward operating base to alert leadership about problems that he perceived within his chain of command. He was captured by the Taliban within hours of leaving the base.
The soldier spent five years under the control of the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, a terrorist organization that operates in the western Pakistan mountains. He was released in May 2014 in a controversial prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders who had been held in the American detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The Army formally charged Bergdahl with “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place” and “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” in March 2015, and his case was referred to a felony-level court-martial in December of that year.
He remains on active duty working a desk job at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas.
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