The chief civilian attorney for accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl tells News Radio 1200 WOAI that he is recommending an 'Article 15 non judicial' punishment for his client after a second Army officer has recommended against prison time, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Eugene Fidell, who is a law lecturer at Yale University, says the Article 15, which is a routine administrative punishment which includes requirements that a soldier perform additional duties, be reduced one grade in rank, or lose a week's pay, would be an appropriate way to handle the case.
It would be an amazing reversal of fortune for Bergdahl, 29, who is charged with desertion and misbehavior in the face of the enemy, and faces up to life in prison if convicted. Just last week, Presidential candidate Donald Trump said Bergdahl, 'should have been executed.'
The recommendation from Lt. Col. Mark Visger, who conducted the two day long Article 32 hearing in Bergdahl's case at Ft. Sam Houston last month, is another major setback for the Army and for those who feel that Bergdahl deserves the 'maximum penalty' for deserting his post at a forward operating base in Afghanistan in 2009.
The major reason why it will be difficult for military prosecutors to make a case of desertion stick is that to prove desertion, it must be proven that a soldier deserted a post and never intended to return. In a letter to Visger, Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt, Bergdahl's lead military attorney, points out that the 'criminal actions of a third party,' namely his capture by the Taliban, makes it impossible to prove that.
Fidell has argued that the best way to settle this case would be to allow Bergdahl to leave the Army with an honorable discharge so he can continue to receive the mental and physical medical treatment he received as a prisoner of the Taliban for more than five years, often in 'near death' conditions.
An administrative remedy to the Bergdahl case would be a victory for the Obama Administration, which faced criticism from those who thought that it traded five 'high value' terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay for a man they considered to be a traitor and a coward.
Bergdahl's lawyers have claimed that he wanted to go to another forward post in Afghanistan to report what he considered to be wrongdoing in his unit.
The Major General who headed the investigation into Bergdahl's disappearance from his post recommended at the Article 32 hearing that prison time would not be appropriate.
Bergdahl is assigned to desk duty with Army North at Ft. Sam Houston.