Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl went missing from his Afghan base back in 2009. He was captured and held by the Taliban until a controversial prisoner exchange brought him home in 2014. After a lengthy Army investigation he was charged with desertion.
Bergdahl’s trial is set to begin in February 2017, after being postponed once before. But there have been a few pretrial hearings, and one is set for Monday at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Sig Christenson, writer for the San Antonio Express-News, says one sworn witness statement filed by Army prosecutors said Staff Sgt. Shane Cross had a conversation with Bergdahl the night before Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban.
“The night before (Bergdahl) left he asked ‘How I would go about becoming a hit man,’” Christenson says. “(Bergdahl) mentioned his plan would be to go through Pakistan and go through India and join the Russian mob.”
Prior to deployment, Bergdahl claimed to speak Russian, which he said he had learned while working on a fishing boat traveling through Europe. The statement also said Bergdahl mentioned that he didn’t want any tattoos because they would be identifiable marks on his body.
Bergdahl had left his post around midnight to go on a 19-mile trek. He says his goal was to alert commanders to problems he saw in his unit. Christenson says the prosecution – which is trying to build a larger narrative about Bergdahl’s mental state – is also highlighting claims that Bergdahl tried to join the French Foreign legion.
“What the prosecution wants to do here is to show that this is the evidence of the accused’s intent and motive to quit his place and duty,” Christenson says. “This is going to go to the heart of the desertion charge. They’re going to say he intended to desert and they’re going to say that his story … was just a bunch of bunk, and that he actually meant to leave that unit well in advance.”
Christenson says right now it all boils down to the next hearing.
“The hearing on Monday is going to be the most critical moment that we may see, up to the trial,” he says. “The judge has a lot on his plate and he may well end up sympathizing with the defense.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.