Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. A military judge at Fort Bragg in North Carolina will decidein the U.S.
Sentencing was set to begin Monday, but the judge said he is concerned that President Donald Trump's comments about the case could impact the public's perception of the military justice system. The sentencing case is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
The Idaho native was captured in 2009 after he abandoned his post in Afghanistan.to desertion and misbehaving before the enemy. He faces up to life in prison for charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Two soldiers who were wounded while searching for Bergdahl are expected to take the stand during this sentencing phase, reports correspondent DeMarco Morgan.
In a rare 2015 interview, Bergdahl said he abandoned his fellow soldiers to draw attention to problems within his own unit. "Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious."
After his subsequent capture by the Taliban, Bergdahl spent five years enduring torture as a prisoner of war before then-President Obama brought him home in 2014 in exchange for the release of five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
Bergdahl describes that release in an interview as a "brief moment of liberty" which later became a flashpoint on the campaign trail for then-candidate Donald Trump, who called Bergdahl a "dirty rotten traitor."
The military judge in charge of Bergdahl's case has already disposed of a defense motion that President Trump's comments denied Bergdahl the right to a fair trial. Last week, the president stood by those remarks.
Soldiers searching for Bergdahl after his desertion were wounded by enemy fire. One soldier was left paralyzed and unable to speak.
Bergdahl says the Taliban who captured him treated him better than the U.S. Army. In a Sunday Times of London interview published yesterday, Bergdahl said, "At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, 'I'm the guy who's gonna cut your throat.' Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who's going to sign the paper that sends me away."
- Bowe Bergdahl: The homecoming from hell (Sunday Times, 10/22/17) (Subscription required)
"You might as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs," Bergdahl told the Times.
He may still be able to appeal sentencing based on President Trump's past statements.
"The people who are to the point of saying, 'Yeah, just shoot him,' you can never convince those people to change their minds," Bergdahl said.