By Jacqueline Klimas
The Army charged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on Wednesday, meaning the former prisoner of war could face a sentence of confinement for life if convicted.
Sgt. Bergdahl was charged with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place, said Col. Daniel J.W. King, chief of public affairs at U.S. Army Forces Command.
The case will now proceed to an Article 32 preliminary hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. A date for the hearing has not yet been set, Col. King said.
If the Article 32 finds enough evidence, Sgt. Bergdahl could face a court martial.
The charge of desertion carries a maximum punishment of a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and five years confinement. The misbehavior before the enemy charge carries similar penalties, but also could result in confinement for life, Col. King said.
Sgt. Bergdahl could receive credit for time served for the five years he was held as a prisoner of war.
It’s unclear if Sgt. Bergdahl will plead guilty to the charges.
“We’ll be responding in due course,” Eugene Fidell, Sgt. Bergdahl’s lawyer, told The Washington Times.
The Army took no questions following the brief statement and declined to share any details of the investigation while legal proceedings are pending.
Sgt. Bergdahl was taken as a prisoner of war while serving in Afghanistan in June 2009 and held captive for five years. He returned home in May in a controversial swap for five high-risk Guantanamo Bay detainees that drew criticism from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
Following his return home, some questioned the suspicious conditions around his disappearance and suggested that he had deserted his post before being taken captive.