Bergdahl case: Military law, complex issues on display | Law Offices of David P. Sheldon
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Bergdahl case: Military law, complex issues on display

Media pundits looking for a high-profile military story have most decidedly found one, with the recent prisoner exchange between American authorities and the Taliban qualifying in every material respect.

Most of our readers in the Washington, D.C., area and elsewhere are likely familiar with many of the details surrounding the recent return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Indeed, some readers might already feel a bit overcome by the non-stop story line and media saturation.

And, thus, we won’t revisit the basic story line. What we will note, though, is the sheer polarity that now marks the situation.

When news of Bergdahl’s recent release first emerged, there was general celebration over the fact that he was freed, notwithstanding the disparaging comments of some critics who questioned the release of several Taliban prisoners of war in exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom. That widespread celebration is now largely muted in light of criticisms that the Army sergeant may have voluntarily left his post in order to defect, which allegedly endangered his fellow soldiers.

The ongoing debate over what might and what might not have actually happened has in turn spurred discussion of a possible court-martial proceeding against Bergdahl.

“Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred,” says Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Concurrent with that comment is the admonition of United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to withhold judgment on Bergdahl and his case pending factual confirmation.

Hagel’s statement is notable and of central importance in every case that has potential for trial, whether in the civilian arena or the military.

Experienced military defense attorneys work hard to ensure that findings and criminal outcomes are solidly based on fact and not on emotion or innuendo. Every accused person -- especially Bergdahl, who has not even been charged officially with any wrongdoing -- has the right to be presumed innocent in the absence of facts proving otherwise.

Source: CBS News, "Court-martial against Bergdahl could be complicated," author unnamed, June 4, 2014

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