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At Bergdahl's Sentencing, Those Forever Harmed by Search to Speak

Sentencing hearing pushed to Wednesday due to lawyer's family emergency
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 23, 2017 11:55 AM CDT
Bergdahl Must Wait 2 More Days to Learn His Fate
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves the Fort Bragg courthouse after a sentencing hearing on Monday at Fort Bragg, NC.   (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

(Newser) – Can two days feel as excruciatingly long as five years? Ask Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was supposed to learn his fate on Monday after pleading guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. CNN reports his sentencing hearing has been pushed to Wednesday because of a family emergency a lawyer encountered. He faces up to life in prison, and military judge Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance will determine his sentence. Fox News reports the eventual sentencing hearing could be "dramatic," as Nance is expected to hear testimony from and see evidence related to the two soldiers and a Navy SEAL who saw their lives forever altered after being wounded while searching for the missing Bergdahl. Read on for the stories of the three men, and more on the court proceedings.

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  • Army National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen had already served in Iraq and could have begged off another deployment, a family friend tells the AP. "He didn't want his guys to go alone," says Robert Stokely. Deployed to Afghanistan, Allen was shot in the head in July 2009 while searching for Bergdahl. The traumatic brain injury dramatically changed life for Allen, his wife, and two children. Once an avid outdoorsman, Allen depends on a wheelchair and can't speak.
  • Jonathan Morita of California, who served as an Army corporal, was a reservist and Iraq veteran taking college classes when he was recalled for Afghanistan duty. During the search mission that left Allen wounded, a rocket-propelled grenade shattered Morita's right hand, and he now can't bend the thumb or index finger. He's had to learn again how to brush his teeth and write. "Imagine doing things with your three fingers," Morita says.

  • Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, a former Navy SEAL, says his team had 90 minutes to plan a separate search mission under poor conditions. But he felt the mission was crucial. "I did not want Sgt. Bergdahl's mother to see her son executed on YouTube," Hatch says in a statement. Their helicopters came under fire as they were landing to search near the Pakistan border. Hatch testified his leg was hit by AK-47 fire, and a military dog that helped locate enemy fighters was killed.
  • Court was in session briefly Monday, with the AP reporting Nance heard a last-minute motion by defense attorneys that recent comments by President Trump are preventing Bergdahl from getting a fair sentence. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a "dirty, rotten traitor" who deserved to be executed by firing squad or thrown out of a plane without a parachute. Nance previously ruled that didn't equate to unlawful command influence as Trump wasn't then president. But when asked about the case last week, Trump said "I think people have heard my comments in the past."

  • That, the defense said, shows that he still harbors his previous views as commander in chief. Prosecutors argued that Trump's comments were narrowly focused on the question a reporter posed. But Nance said he was having a "hard time" with prosecutors' interpretation, noting public confidence in military courts was something he had to consider. He indicated he would issue a written ruling later on the defense request to have the case thrown out over Trump's comments.
  • A former Taliban hostage who interviewed Bergdahl says Bergdahl may have "hopelessly misread" his situation while in captivity.
(Read more Bowe Bergdahl stories.)

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