After days of emotional testimony about fellow soldiers who were injured or killed in the aftermath of his disappearance, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl‘s defense team brought in its own troops to describe the man who walked off his base and the man who came home.
In its second day of witness testimony, Bergdahl’s lawyers brought in a fellow soldier who talked about the quiet young man who “executed quickly” but had trouble adjusting to deployment, as well as a defense official and an intelligence analyst who argued that Bergdahl had become “completely invaluable” and “a gold mine” to U.S. Armed Forces. In the afternoon, two doctors described his poor medical condition and a former boss painted a picture of a quiet man with a good attitude.
Bergdahl faces up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for abandoning his Army post in Afghanistan in June 2009. Captured by the Taliban and held for five years, he was freed in a prisoner exchange between the militant group and the Obama administration in May 2014.
The trial is now in the sentencing phase for the 31-year old from Sun Valley, Idaho, who took the stand for the two hours on Monday and described in unsworn testimony his brutal time in captivity. The military judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, ruled that morning that President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about the man candidate Trump called a “traitor” and suggested be executed will be a mitigating factor in his sentencing.
Bergdahl’s lawyers hope that the accounts of their six witnesses today will also help reduce his punishment.
John Leatherman, a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was in Berghdal’s unit in Afghanistan and was stationed with him in Alaska, described an efficient and quiet Bergdahl who was a great squad assault weapon gunner, always had his handbook with him and clearly wanted to “better himself.”
“He didn’t seem to adjust as quickly and smoothly as most soldiers adjust. Something about him was a little bit slower coming to terms with what was happening,” Leatherman said in court today, adding that he mentioned this to their first sergeant and asked about getting help for Bergdahl. But the first sergeant told him to shut up and to not tell him how to handle his soldiers — a sign of the stigma associated with asking for mental health help, according to Leatherman.
Terrence Russell of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, or JPRA, was the second witness to take the stand, describing how Bergdahl was very helpful and very anxious to get information out to help other prisoners…