At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Tuesday, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, faced a military judge for the first time since the U.S. Army decided last week to proceed with a court-martial.
At his hearing, the Associated Press reports, Bergdahl, 29, did not enter a plea, and did not decide whether he wants to face a military trial by jury or solely a judge. The desertion charge carries a possible five year sentence. The misbehavior charge carries a possible life sentence.
On the night of June 30, 2009, Bergdahl, walked away from the remote combat outpost where his platoon was stationed in Afghanistan. Bergdahl, who has been speaking by phone with screenwriter Mark Boal, and is the subject of the second season of the podcast Serial, says he wanted to draw attention to leadership issues in his unit.
Shortly after leaving his post, he was captured by the Taliban, and, five years later, was returned to the United States, in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees, in a prisoner swap.
The charge of misbehavior before the enemy was used hundreds of times during World War II, but scholars say its use appears to have dwindled in conflicts since then. Legal databases and media accounts turn up only a few misbehavior cases since 2001, when fighting began in Afghanistan, followed by Iraq less than two years later. In contrast, statistics show the U.S. Army prosecuted about 1,900 desertion cases between 2001 and the end of 2014.
Bergdahl’s attorney Eugene Fidell said he welcomes the court martial, which will allow for more of the case to be made public.