FORT BRAGG, N.C -- A military lawyer representing accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl called for the Army to award his client several medals, including the Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War medal, during a pre-trial hearing Tuesday.
Army Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt said Bergdahl, accused of abandoning his eastern Afghanistan post in 2009 before he was captured by the Taliban, was entitled to the awards and the Army's failure to grant them could bias potential jurors in the trial.
Bergdahl faces a general court-martial on charges of "misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place" and "desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty." The misbehavior charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison and the desertion charge as much as five years.
"We believe this is a prejudice and casts a semblance of guilt," Rosenblatt said, noting Bergdahl was wearing his dress Blue Army uniform, including a Combat Infantryman Badge and 10 overseas service bars. "We encourage the government to correct that."
In addition to the Purple Heart and POW Medal, Rosenblatt told Army judge Col. Jeffrey R. Nance, Bergdahl should be awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the NATO medal during the hearing that largely focused on the defense's ability to access classified material related to Bergdahl's case.
Nance, who will oversee Bergdahl's court-martial scheduled for Aug. 8-19 at Fort Bragg, said there was time to resolve the issue before the trial, adding any prejudice that could be caused by the lack of medals on future pre-trial proceedings is "minimal."
Bergdahl, 29, remains on active duty at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston assigned to U.S. Army North. He spent five years imprisoned by a Taliban-linked group before he was released in May 2014 in a controversial prisoner swap for five Taliban commanders who had been held in a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.