Military Judge, Not Jury, Will Decide Bergdahl Desertion Case

(CN) – Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s trial on desertion charges that could land him in a military prison for life will be heard by a judge instead of a jury, according to court papers filed by his attorneys.

Bergdahl, 31, made the decision to forgo a jury trial in a notice filed by his attorneys last week but first reported on Monday. A service member charged in a court-martial case is entitled to be tried solely by a judge.

Bergdahl’s trial is set to begin Oct. 23 in North Carolina’s Fort Bragg on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009.

He was immediately captured and spent five years as a Taliban detainee in conditions described by a military expert who debriefed the soldier as the worst a U.S. prisoner of war has suffered in 60 years.

Bergdahl endured endless beatings which became worse after failed escape attempts, suffered through years of uncontrollable diarrhea and spent three years trapped in a 7-foot metal cage, according to testimony at a 2015 hearing.

His release came only after the White House agreed in 2014 to swap five Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.

Bergdahl has tried unsuccessfully to have the charges dismissed and his attorneys were recently blocked from questioning potential jurors whether they had voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. That ruling could have impacted Bergdahl’s decision to waive a trial by jury.

The embattled sergeant, of Hailey, Idaho, has said that he left his platoon’s base to begin a 20-mile run, hoping that his absence would trigger enough attention to allow him to air his grievances with a general.

He told filmmaker Mark Boal that he quickly found himself tangled in the hills before six to seven men on motorcycles carrying high-powered weapons snatched him away less than 24 hours after he walked into the enemy-infested desert.

Bergdahl remains on active duty at a military base in San Antonio, assigned to a desk job.

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