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 be punished.
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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