U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The former Taliban captive could face a lifetime in prison for abandoning his post in 2009 and prompting U.S. forces to organize a manhunt.
On Oct. 16, Bergdahl pleaded guilty in military court to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, or endangering other American troops.
"I left my observation post on my own," Bergdahl told his trial's judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, during a hearing at an Army base in San Antonio, Texas, according to CNN. "I understand leaving was against the law."
In June 2009, Bergdahl left his unit's outpost in Afghanistan and was swiftly intercepted by Taliban forces. The former private first class was held in captivity and tortured until May 2014, when the Obama administration negotiated his freedom in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Bergdahl asserted that he left his outpost to report what he believed were problems in his unit's command to senior officers stationed 18 miles away. The former prisoner said that he did not intend to endanger other American troops.
"At the time, I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations," Bergdahl told Nance in court, reports The New York Times. "I didn't think they would have any reason to search for one private."
Bergdahl could face five years in prison for desertion and potentially life in prison for misbehavior before the enemy. His sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin on Oct. 23.
The Army Sgt. was not offered a deal before pleading guilty. His defense lawyers asserted in court that he had already suffered torture as a result of his decision making and that he was not of sound mind when he left his outpost.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the Army's chief investigator, told Nance during a preliminary hearing that he did not find evidence that Bergdahl intended to defect to the Taliban when he deserted his post or that any U.S. military service members were killed as a direct result of searching for the private after his abduction.
Bergdahl's lawyers also noted that the Army Sanity Board had diagnosed him with schizotypal personality disorder in 2015. They also argued that Bergdahl could not receive a fair trial in a Trump administration.
During the 2016 presidential race, President Donald Trump blasted the Obama administration's decision to broker an exchange for Bergdahl. The future president asserted that Bergdahl was a traitor and called for him to be shot by a firing squad.
"In the good old days, he would have been executed," Trump said during a rally.
Bergdahl's attorneys asserted that a military trial would not be fair to Bergdahl because Nance and other military personnel had to defer to Trump as commander-in-chief. Nance dismissed their arguments and ruled that the trial would proceed.
During an undisclosed time in 2016, Bergdahl told an interviewer that he was convinced he would not receive a fair trial with Trump as president, ABC News reports.
"We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted," Bergdahl said. "The people who want to hang me -- you're never going to convince those people."