Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's defense team won a critical pre-trial victory
earlier this month by gaining access to high commander emails. As
Stars and Stripes reports, Col. Jeffery Nance has ordered that prosecutors hand over emails
from specific commanders who could have been in contact with Congress
at the time that it was decided to charge Bergdahl with desertion and
misbehavior before the enemy.
Bergdahl's team hopes to prove that there was undue commander influence
over the decision to charge Bergdahl. Prosecutors had fought the motion,
calling it an "all access pass," but Nance has granted Bergdahl's
team to some (but not all) to the emails in question.
Attorney Eugene Fidell was happy with Nance's ruling, telling reporters
that "A number of the documents the judge said we have a right to
see could be quite important." Perhaps even more telling was Nance's
decision to give Bergdahl's team permission to interview Gen. Robert
Abrams, who had decided to pursue charges against Bergdahl last December
after several high-profile evaluations recommended forgoing them. "They
need to be able to sit down with him and ask him some pointed questions,"
Col. Nance said in the latest hearing.
Bergdahl's case, which is extraordinary in its own right, continues
to be the object of much speculation. His defense team has raised serious
concerns about a likely lack of neutrality in his case—not just
in public, but in the chain of command that has led to his court-martial.
In particular, they looking to prove that Senator John McCain, former
POW and leader of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushed for a Bergdahl
court-martial. McCain has shared publicly his belief that Bergdahl should
Another topic of speculation: why Bergdahl, who returned to service after
being held by Taliban prisoners for five years, was kept on active duty
into 2022. Lt. Col. Frank Rosenblatt, a lawyer for Bergdahl, pointed out
that Bergdahl's service ended in 2011, while he was in captivity,
and that, upon his rescue, he should have been given a choice to re-enlist
or leave the army. "This matter was handled entirely irregularly,"
Rosenblatt told the court. In response, Col. Nance has also ordered prosecutors
to provide emails about Bergdahl's re-enlistment. His court-martial,
originally scheduled for next month, has been pushed back to February 2017.
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