Army Pursues Court-Martial Proceedings Against Bowe Bergdahl (WSJ 12/14/2015) Soldier could face life in prison if convicted on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy Army Pursues Court-Martial Proceedings Against Bowe Bergdahl - WSJ By Dan Frosch Updated Dec. 14, 2015 7:37 p.m. ET Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a military trial on charges that he deserted his unit in Afghanistan in 2009 and endangered the lives of soldiers who searched for him, the Army said Monday, a move that means he could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty. Sgt. Bergdahl, who was subsequently captured by the Taliban before being returned to the U.S. in a controversial prisoner exchange in 2014, is accused of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The decision to pursue a court-martial was reached by Gen. Robert Abrams, who heads Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. It comes two months after an Army officer recommended that Sgt. Bergdahl, 29, not face jail time or a punitive discharge from the military. Following an Article 32 preliminary hearing in the case, Lt. Colonel Mark Visger recommended in October that Sgt. Bergdahl face a special court-martial—essentially a military version of a misdemeanor court—according to Sgt. Bergdahl’s civilian defense lawyer, Eugene Fidell. Gen. Abrams instead opted for a general court-martial, a far more serious proceeding. The desertion charge in Sgt. Bergdahl’s case carries a five-year maximum sentence, while the misbehavior before the enemy count, a much rarer military violation, could result in a life sentence. In a brief statement, Mr. Fidell said that Gen. Abrams didn’t “follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer who heard the witnesses.” Mr. Fidell added that Sgt. Bergdahl’s defense team had hoped the case wouldn’t “go in this direction.” According to Mr. Fidell, Sgt. Bergdahl is currently assigned to desk duty at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas but isn’t being confined or restricted to the base. A spokesman for Army Forces Command declined to comment further on Gen. Abrams’ decision. Military law experts said that while it isn’t unprecedented for Army officials to reject a recommendation from an Article 32 hearing, it is uncommon. From the beginning, Sgt. Bergdahl’s case has generated strong passions. The Obama administration has faced criticism for its handling of the prisoner exchange that led to the Idaho native’s release. Some members of the military have said they consider Sgt. Bergdahl a deserter who wasn’t worthy of a prisoner swap. Last week, Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee issued a report accusing the Pentagon of misleading Congress about the prisoner-exchange negotiations. At the preliminary hearing in the case, military prosecutors sought to cast Sgt. Bergdahl as motivated by selfishness. They argued that his disappearance from his unit in a rugged swath of Afghanistan endangered the legions of American soldiers who spent weeks frantically searching for him and that it shifted the entire mission of U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the time. Sgt. Bergdahl’s defense team countered that he was a standout soldier who wasn’t trying to desert, but had slipped away from an Army outpost one night because he wanted to inform a general about what he believed was his unit’s failed mission in Afghanistan. A Defense Department official who interviewed Sgt. Bergdahl after he was returned to the U.S. testified for the defense that while in captivity he had been subjected to some of the most brutal torture any American soldier had suffered since the Vietnam War. Maj. General Kenneth Dahl, also testified that jail time wouldn’t be an appropriate punishment for Sgt. Bergdahl. He described the soldier as naive and self-deluded, but sincere in his account of what happened. The saga of Sgt. Bergdahl gained increased attention recently as it is the focus of a new season of the hit podcast “Serial.” The court-martial in Sgt. Bergdahl’s case is expected to begin sometime next year.