Lawyer: Officer nixes prison for Bergdahl
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.