Saturday, August 20, 2016

Latest on the Bowe Bergdahl case

By Jim Emerson, staff writer
This Monday an Army Judge will decide on separate motions filed by accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s defense lawyers. The defense attorneys allege that Bergdahl’s case may have been improperly influenced by Senator McCain. They are also asking that the court-martial’s convening authority, Army Gen. Robert Abrams, be dismissed because of his prior knowledge of the case.
Last October Senator McCain told reporters “If it comes out that he has no punishment, we’re going to have to have a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee,” after a Bergdahl investigator made his recommendation of no imprisonment for the accused deserter.  Sen. McCain also declared that Bergdahl was “clearly a deserter.” The defense lawyer claims that, since Sen McCain is the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, his comments have placed undue influence on the Army concerning Bowe Bergdahl. The Bergdahl lawyers have stated that the influence of Sen McCain and a recent statement by Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump will serve to deny Bergdahl a fair trial.  They are asking that all charges be dismissed.
Bowe Bergdahl
Eric Carpenter, an assistant law professor at Florida International University and a former Army defense attorney and prosecutor, told the Associated Press “allegations that McCain improperly meddled in the case are "serious."” He pointed out that if "If Gen. Abrams wasn't influenced, then the issue is over."
In a second motion filed August 12th the defense attorneys allege that Gen. Robert Abrams should be dismissed as the court-martial’s convening authority because was too involved in the case to be impartial and therefore didn’t consider defense attorneys’ objections and comments about the case before referring it to a general court-martial. The lawyers believe that the General could not be bothered to hear from the defense “…when exercising a critical quasi-judicial function.”  The motion will likely fail as Military Law dictates a convening authority can oversee a case as long as he was not personally connected to it.” 
Bergdahl with new Best Friend
Bergdahl’s lawyers have also accused Gen. Abrams of destroying some 100 letters from the general public, some expressing support and others disapproval of Bergdahl. On August 8 the General admitted that he burned the letters during an interview. The letters were most likely placed in the General’s outgoing trash which is burned as part of the security protocol for all general officers. This defense argument will likely fail because, according to Professor Carpenter, “The panel members probably would not think that random letters from the public are of central importance to their sentencing decision, and the defense can find other people to say those positive things.”
The 30 year old Bergdahl was charged with "desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking off his small post in Eastern Afghanistan." He was captured by the Taliban and held for 5 years before being freed in a "controversial prisoner swap in May of 2014."  His trail is scheduled to start on February 6, 2017. 

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