Bergdahl hearing scheduled for July at Fort Sam Houston
WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a preliminary hearing in July into charges that he deserted his unit and engaged in “misbehavior before the enemy” in Afghanistan, the Army announced Thursday.
The Article 32 preliminary hearing will take place July 8 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where Bergdahl is stationed.
The Army set the date after consultations with Bergdahl’s defense attorneys, U.S. Army Forces Command said in a statement.
The soldier is charged with one count of Article 85 and one count of Article 99 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Article 85, or “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty,” carries a maximum potential punishment of five years in prison, dishonorable discharge, reduction to the rank of private and total forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Article 99, or “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place,” carries a maximum potential penalty of life in prison, dishonorable discharge, reduction to the rank of private and total forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
An Article 32 preliminary hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury inquiry. It is designed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to merit a court-martial. Based on the outcome of the hearing, a general court-martial convening authority will decide whether to refer charges to a general court-martial, refer the charges to a special court-martial, dismiss the charges or take other action.
Bergdahl spent nearly five years in captivity after walking away from Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika province, Afghanistan, in June 2009. After leaving his post, the soldier fell into the hands of insurgents.
Some fellow soldiers have said that servicemembers died while searching for him.
Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani Network in May 2014 after the Obama administration agreed to release five Taliban leaders from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The deal was highly controversial, and some Republican lawmakers accused President Barack Obama of endangering national security by releasing the militants.
Obama and the Pentagon brass defended the swap, arguing that American troops shouldn’t be left behind, regardless of how they might have fallen into enemy hands. Bergdahl remains on active duty and has held an administrative position at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston since he was released from medical observation last year.
An Army investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture began in June 2014, shortly after the soldier was released from captivity. The Army announced the charges against him last week.