For abandoning his post in June 2009, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and avoiding military service. Bergdahl reportedly left a remote outpost in Afghanistan, where he was captured by the Taliban. He spent the next five years as the Taliban's prisoner, until the Obama administration made a deal for his release in return for the exchange of five Taliban commanders who were at Guantanamo Bay. But if he's convicted for desertion, what will happen to Bergdahl?
Along with the charges of desertion, Bergdahl also faces a charge of "misbehavior before the enemy," the Associated Press reports. But there are various levels of desertion charges, and the Army must be able to prove that Bergdahl left his post with no intention of coming back before he was captured.
Details of whether Bergdahl will actually face time in prison will come later. The investigation into the desertion charges was launched last June. The two charges he faces are Articles 85 and 99, and, according to The Washington Post, Article 85's maximum sentence is the death penalty. Now, it's worth noting that it's extremely unlikely that Bergdahl will come even close to that sentence. The last time someone received the death penalty under Article 85 was in 1944. And remember, there are varying degrees of desertion charges, and it's not yet clear which degree Bergdahl is looking at, as his reasoning for leaving his post is yet unclear.
NBC News reported in January that Bergdahl will likely receive a lesser charge of desertion that's described as leaving to "avoid duty or shirk an important assignment," according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This charge has a maximum of five years in prison. But, sources told NBC News earlier this year that because Bergdahl was in captivity with the Taliban for five years until May 2014, the Army might consider crediting those years to him.
And defense officials say there's little desire to see Bergdahl go to prison if he's court-martialed and convicted, The New York Times reports. The only critics who want to see him punished are those who believe Bergdahl purposely left the post, which then put people assigned to look for him in danger. Some military officials say there were six soldiers who died while searching for him, though whether or not it's exactly true that they died while specifically looking for Bergdahl has been debated.
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