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The SGT Bergdahl story demonstrates why a good military defense lawyer is so important

UCMJ protocol doesn't necessarily end after an initial investigation. In the case of Sergeant Bergdahl, he faces a general court martial even though an investigation recommended that he face no jail time and even though an Article 32, UCMJ, investigation recommended that he be tried in a Special Court-Martial.

The backstory

While serving in Afghanistan, Sergeant Bergdahl left his post and was subsequently captured and imprisoned by the Taliban. He was held for five years. The Army has charged him with desertion under Article 85 of the UCMJ and a charge entitled "Misbehavior before the enemy," under Article 99 of the UCMJ. As a result, Sergeant Bergdahl faces the possibility of a life sentence.

A General Court-Martial, however, is not in keeping with the recommendation by the JAG officer who conducted a preliminary hearing under Article 32, UCMJ. That officer, based on mitigating factors that he reviewed and believed were relevant, recommended that the matter be tried in a Special Court-Martial, which is much more limited in issuing punishment compared to a General Court-Martial. Some of those mitigating factors included the reasons why Sergeant Bergdahl is believed to have left his post, and the conditions that he faced while being held by the Taliban. Reportedly, Bergdahl was tortured, abused, beaten, and confined in a metal cage.

Why this matters

The fact that the Army is not following the recommendations of investigators in Sergeant Bergdahl's case is not as unusual as some might think. Attorneys who practice in the military understand that this regularly occurs. They also understand, though, there is other value that can be found from preliminary investigations and Article 32 hearings, even if, ultimately, the command will likely proceed to trial regardless of the recommendations of those investigators. Attorneys at the Law Offices of David P. Sheldon have a great amount of experience with military justice, and can evaluate your case and plot a strategy to give you the best chance possible when it matters most, which is often trial.

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