Soldier’s brain injury in focus at US Army’s Bergdahl sentencing
The wife of a U.S. soldier who suffered a debilitating brain injury during the search for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan is expected to be one of prosecutors’ last witnesses when the deserter’s sentencing hearing resumes on Monday.
Master Sergeant Mark Allen is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak after being shot in the head during a July 2009 mission to seek intelligence on Bergdahl, who had abandoned his post days earlier.
Prosecutors said testimony by Allen’s wife and his doctor about the effects of his wounds will likely conclude their case at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, where Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
The 31-year-old Idaho native faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
He has been the subject of withering criticism from political leaders in Washington and fellow soldiers, both for the dangerous search to find him and the 2014 Taliban prisoner swap brokered by the Democratic Obama administration that won his release.
During campaigning for the presidency last year, Donald Trump, a Republican, called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”
In sometimes emotional testimony last week, U.S. service members described the risks and hardships they faced after Bergdahl walked off his combat outpost in Paktika province in June 2009.
Texas Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Jason Walters saw Allen get shot during the Taliban ambush on troops seeking information on Bergdahl’s location. He choked up as he recalled visiting Allen later in a Florida hospital.
“Seeing him like that was…painful,” Walters said.
Bergdahl admitted on Oct. 16 to wrongdoing but said he never intended to put anyone at risk. [L2N1MR0G6]
He told Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, the judge in the case, that he had planned to go to a nearby base to report “critical problems” in his chain of command, got lost and was captured by the Taliban. He spent the next five years in captivity suffering torture, abuse and neglect.
Over defense objections, Nance has allowed evidence of injuries sustained by Allen and others because they occurred during search-and-rescue operations prompted by Bergdahl’s actions.
Major Oren Gleich, one of Bergdahl’s lawyers, argued on Thursday there should be a limit to how much blame his client shoulders.
“The accused is not responsible for a never-ending chain of causes and effects,” Gleich said.
Bergdahl’s attorneys are expected to present expert testimony about his suffering in captivity in hopes of securing a more lenient sentence, military law experts said.
(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Mary Milliken)