Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty to desertion

U.S. Army  Getty Images In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag

Bowe Bergdahl, a USA soldier held captive in Afghanistan for five years before being freed in a prisoner swap with the Taliban, pleaded guilty Monday to desertion and endangering fellow troops for walking away from his unit in 2009.

He was charged with desertion, which carries a potential five-year sentence, and with misbehavior - essentially, endangering the troops who were sent to search for him - which carries a potential life sentence.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Monday he is pleading guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Bergdahl was captured after walking off his base in Afghanistan in June 2009.

He told the judge at Fort Bragg, North Carolina that he now understands that what he did caused others to search for him.

"I didn't think there'd be any reason to pull off a crucial mission to look for one guy", he said, adding his actions were "very inexcusable".

President Donald Trump frequently assailed Bergdahl during last year's presidential campaign, referring to the soldier at times as a "dirty, rotten traitor" and a "bum".

"We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted", Bergdahl said in an interview taped past year that was aired Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America".

Legal scholars have said that several pretrial rulings against the defense have given prosecutors leverage to pursue stiff punishment against Bergdahl.

Washington also pursued behind-the-scenes negotiations to get his release, and in May 2014 he was given to USA special forces in exchange for five Taliban detainees who were held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. That signals there was no deal on sentencing, according to the wire service.

Bergdahl has been called both a traitor and a hero. A sentencing hearing is expected to begin on October 23.

Jeffrey Addicott, a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Army, said defence lawyers are betting the judge will give Bergdahl a lighter punishment. That information was included in the hundreds of pages of documents that Bergdahl's defense team releases on a website called The Bergdahl Docket.

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