- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has no less than four military defense lawyers, plus his civilian lawyer, to try to beat the Army charge of desertion on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, which will conduct Sgt. Bergdahl’s court martial, announced this week that the military had concluded a brief pretrial hearing that morning and scheduled future hearings.

Listed as the sergeant’s judge advocates were Lt. Col. Franklin D. Rosenblatt, Maj. Jason Thomas, Maj. Oren Gleich and Capt. Nina Banks.

Asked whether he requested a large defense team, Sgt. Bergdahl’s lead civilian counsel, Eugene Fidell, said in an email, “Yes. We have assembled an excellent defense team.”

An Army spokesman told The Washington Times that “defense counsel are assigned by the U.S Army Trial Defense Service to provide independent, competent, and ethical defense legal services to soldiers worldwide, wherever located.”

The next pretrial hearing is set for July, with the trial scheduled to begin Feb. 6

“The military judge discussed scheduling of the court’s upcoming docket for future hearing dates, as well as specific legal motions by trial counsel and defense counsel,” the Army statement said.

Prosecution and defense have been arguing over access to classified information.

Last year, it appeared Sgt. Bergdahl had escaped serious criminal charges. A hearing officer recommended he face a special court martial, the lowest level, and receive no jail time.

But Gen. Robert Abrams, Forces Command chief, rejected the recommendation and ordered a general court martial on felony charges of desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Sgt. Bergdahl walked away from his forward operating base in June 2009. The Obama administration traded five hardened Taliban leaders at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval prison for his release from the Taliban in May 2014.

Sgt. Bergdahl told the podcast “Serial” he had thoughts of becoming the fictional CIA renegade Jason Bourne.” Other reports say he wanted to report misconduct in his unit.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump injected himself into the case, calling Sgt. Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” at a town hall meeting last summer.

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