Bowe Bergdahl court-martial won't happen until after November election

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban terrorists almost two years ago.  Since then, the Army has charged him with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, for walking away from his guardpost in Afghanistan. 

But the wheels of military justice turn very slowly.  The presiding judge in the case has decided to postpone Bergdahl's court-martial from August to next Febrary, meaning that the politically sensitive trial will occur after the November election.

Fox News:

The judge, Col. Jeffrey Nance, also ruled that media organizations could hire a stenographer to capture courtroom discussions during the trial, and he gave Army prosecutors one week to provide reporters covering the case with online access to court documents.

The judge postponed deciding a dispute that could influence how much punishment Bergdahl could face if convicted.

The Army's primary investigating officer last year recommended against Bergdahl facing jail time, saying there is no evidence that any service members were killed or wounded searching for him in Afghanistan. A preliminary hearing officer recommended against a bad-conduct discharge.

But those recommendations were scrapped in December by the general overseeing the case. Gen. Robert Abrams, who leads the Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, instead sided with an Army lawyer's recommendation for a general court-martial.

Bergdahl's defense lawyers contend that the Army lawyer's advice to Abrams was so incomplete that it misled the four-star general. Nance did not explain why he opted against taking up the issue Tuesday.

The military is sparing no effort in Bergdahl's defense.  The military has appointed four military lawyers to augment his civilian defense team.

Washington Times:

Listed as the sergeant’s judge advocates were Lt. Col. Franklin D. Rosenblatt, Maj. Jason Thomas, Maj. Oren Gleich and Capt. Nina Banks.

Asked whether he requested a large defense team, Sgt. Bergdahl’s lead civilian counsel, Eugene Fidell, said in an email, “Yes. We have assembled an excellent defense team.”

An Army spokesman told The Washington Times that “defense counsel are assigned by the U.S Army Trial Defense Service to provide independent, competent, and ethical defense legal services to soldiers worldwide, wherever located.”

The next pretrial hearing is set for July, with the trial scheduled to begin Feb. 6

“The military judge discussed scheduling of the court’s upcoming docket for future hearing dates, as well as specific legal motions by trial counsel and defense counsel,” the Army statement said.

Prosecution and defense have been arguing over access to classified information.

So much of the political fallout from the trial will be blunted – just as the White House and Pentagon hoped.  Trying Bergdahl in the middle of a presidential campaign might have been prejudicial to the defendant, and the powers that be are interested in minimizing Bergdahl's culpability.  Even though the charge of misbehavior before the enemy can carry a life term, if he is found guilty, Bergdahl probably won't get anything near that sentence.  After spending five years in captivity, his lawyers will ask for mercy and almost certainly get it.

This was an ugly chapter in the Afghanistan war.  The White House attempt to play politics with Bergdahl's release backfired when the story of his desertion was revealed.  The spectacularly bad deal in exchanging five terrorists for a deserter will now fade into obscurity.

Meanwhile, the press has lost track of the five terrorists exchanged for Bergdahl.  The House Armed Services Committee reported in December of last year that the five had resumed their "threatening activities," making the swap even more worthless than it was previously.

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