Lawyer: Of­fi­cer nixes prison for Bergdahl

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION -

The at­tor­ney for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Satur­day that an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer has rec­om­mended against the most se­ri­ous kind of court-mar­tial and prison time in the soldier’s de­ser­tion case, de­spite a months-long man­hunt in Afghanistan that put other U.S. troops at risk af­ter he walked away from his base.

The in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer, Lt. Col. Mark Vis­ger, rec­om­mended a spe­cial court-mar­tial, rather than a gen­eral court-mar­tial, said Eu­gene Fidell, Bergdahl’s at­tor­ney. The process car­ries with it a max­i­mum penalty of 12 months of con­fine­ment, for­fei­ture of two-thirds of a ser­vice mem­ber’s pay for a year, re­duc­tion in rank to pri­vate and a bad­con­duct dis­charge.

Vis­ger called for even lighter penal­ties than that, though, Fidell said. Vis­ger rec­om­mended against both a bad-con­duct dis­charge and con­fine­ment, Fidell said, po­ten­tially al­low­ing the soldier to re­ceive mil­i­tary ben­e­fits af­ter he leaves the Army.

The rec­om­men­da­tion comes af­ter a two-day pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing in San An­to­nio, in Septem­ber, in which Vis­ger heard tes­ti­mony in Bergdahl’s case. He faces charges of de­ser­tion and mis­be­hav­ior be­fore the en­emy and is ac­cused of walk­ing away from his pa­trol base late on June 29, 2009.

Fel­low sol­diers on his small com­bat out­post dis­cov­ered Bergdahl was miss­ing the fol­low­ing morn­ing, but it was too late: He was cap­tured by in­sur­gents af­fil­i­ated with the Tal­iban and held cap­tive for nearly five years.

Gen. Mark Abrams, the com­mand­ing gen­eral of U.S. Army Forces Com­mand at Fort Bragg, N.C., could still de­cide to send Bergdahl to the more se­ri­ous kind of court-mar­tial, po­ten­tially up­ping his penal­ties. He faces up to life in prison if that oc­curs.

An Army spokesman, Paul Boyce, de­clined to com­ment Satur­day on the case. “We will no­tify the public and in­ter­ested news media when fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about this on­go­ing le­gal ac­tion po­ten­tially is avail­able,” he said.

— Dan Lamothe Fam­ily’s lawyer crit­i­cizes re­ports say­ing shoot­ing was jus­ti­fied: The lawyer for the fam­ily of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy hold­ing a pel­let gun who was fa­tally shot by a Cleve­land pa­trol­man, says re­ports find­ing that the shoot­ing was jus­ti­fied show the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice is avoid­ing ac­count­abil­ity. Su­bodh Chan­dra said the Rice fam­ily wants the of­fi­cers held ac­count­able, and it seems “the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice has been on a 12-month quest” to avoid it. Re­ports by out­side ex­perts, re­leased Satur­day by the Cuya­hoga County Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice, con­cluded the pa­trol­man had rea­son to per­ceive Tamir as a threat be­fore shoot­ing him in Novem­ber. grand jury will de­cide whether the of­fi­cer should face crim­i­nal charges.

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