Judge delays Bergdahl trial by several months
Posted November 14, 2016
Fort Bragg, N.C. — A military judge on Monday pushed back the trial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy to give defense attorneys more time to review classified documents.
Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban and its allies for five years. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of both charges.
Prosecutors filed a motion in October asking to delay the trial by several months until May 2017, citing the pace at which they're able to get approval to give the defense classified evidence. Bergdahl and some of his lawyers lack top secret clearances.
Col. Jeffrey Nance, the judge overseeing the case, scolded the prosecution for repeated delays – Monday marks the fourth time Bergdahl's court-martial has been rescheduled – and at one point, he threatened to delay it for 20 years, when all documents in the case would be declassified.
Defense lawyers previously argued the case should be taken off the calendar because of the evidence issue, but they agreed Monday to a May 15 trial date, noting that they might have to delay it again with discovery requests based on the document review.
Bergdahl's defense team also noted that it still needs computer software to view the more than 1.5 million pages of information associated with the case.
They also raised concerns about disparaging remarks that President-elect Donald Trump made about Bergdahl during his campaign.
Trump railed against the prisoner swap of five Taliban commanders that the Obama administration put together to secure Bergdahl's release. He has called Bergdahl a "no-good traitor" and said he should have been executed.
"Everybody knows he's gone back and forth across the country addressing rallies attended by tens of thousands of people and viewed by tens of thousands of other Americans," defense attorney Eugene Fidell said. "Mr. Trump has created a substantial problem."
Fidell said Trump's comments about Bergdahl will likely be the subject of another motion after Trump's inauguration in January.