Who Is Bowe Bergdahl's Lawyer, Eugene Fidell? He Has A History In Military Law & High Profile Cases

A prominent Yale Law professor might have found the perfect case, as Eugene Fidell is defending Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an alleged military deserter. It's a challenge that speaks to Fidell's expert status in military law as well as his penchant for high profile cases. Fidell has already spoken with major media outlets, such as the Huffington Post, NPR, and The Washington Post about the Bergdahl case, and he is frequently called upon by comparable outlets to discuss major military cases as well as contentious issues like the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Fidell is the President Emeritus of the National Institute of Military Justice and first got his start as a judge advocate with the Coast Guard during the height of the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1972. It was shortly before he entered the military that he graduated from Queens College and then Harvard Law School. His current senior partner position with Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell came after decades of work with the trailblazing law firm. Fidell joined the firm in 1984, and the experience has helped greatly in pushing his views in a far more progressive direction than that of his military peers, as with his call for sweeping military justice reform in the face of rampant sexual assault issues.

Prior to being approached by Bergdahl's family to represent the former Sergeant in July of last year, Fidell had thrown his hat in the ring in analyzing the Chelsea Manning trial and had served as the lawyer for former Army Captain James Yee, whose charges of espionage by the government resulted in 76 days of confinement but were ultimately dropped. Although the military said Yee mishandled classified documents, evidence for those allegations was never produced.

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The challenge that Fidell now faces is in negotiating a fair sentence for Bergdahl, who spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban after leaving his post on his own accord. Fidell says that Bergdahl's harrowing experience might lead to a sentence reduction rather than Bergdahl receiving the maximum for the desertion charge. Says Fidell:

If it turned out that the individual — and here I'm obviously thinking of Sergeant Bergdahl — was subjected to brutal treatment during the course of his AWOL, that might be a factor that you would take into account. ... Suppose he was a total mess emotionally — a person who under no circumstances would be a candidate for, you know, serious criminal punishment.
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Fidell is representing Bergdahl pro bono and has stated that the two get along quite well. In addition to desertion, Bergdahl is also being charged with "misbehavior before the enemy," which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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