Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Charged With Desertion

The Army announced yesterday that it would be pursuing charges against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the US Army soldier who disappeared from his unit in Afghanistan in 2009. He will be charged with both desertion and misbehavior before the enemy - charges which could send him to prison for life.

Berghdahl is charged with one count of an Article 85 and one count of an Article 99 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Although the maximum penalty for both of the these UCMJ charges is the death penalty "in a time of declared war", the Army didn't mention this issue, saying the maximum charge would be life in prison.

According to this Stripes.com article, Noel Tipon, a lawyer in Hawaii that specializes in defending service members facing courts martial, said that it is unclear if the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force signed by President George W. Bush rises to the same level as the declaration of war needed to enforce the death penalty in desertion cases.

Before facing charges on the two severe charges, though, Bergdahl must first face an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury inquiry. The information gathered by the investigation into Bergdahl's disappearance is currently being treated as potential evidence in this upcoming hearing. It is scheduled to take place at Fort Sam Houston, although a date has not been announced. Depending on the outcome of the Article 32 hearing, the Army could just request a discharge in lieu of a courts martial.

Sgt. Bergdahl is currently still on active duty in an administrative position at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

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