Convicted deserter Bowe Bergdahl faced a gut-wrenching sentencing hearing Monday — and the discrased Army Sgt. couldn’t hold it together.
As the deserter’s defense team questions officials who treated and debriefed the soldier following his brutal five years of captivity by Taliban allies, Bergdahl wept openly.
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The defense presentation began Monday in North Carolina with Bergdahl himself describing his experience in enemy hands.
That served as a dramatic counterpoint to the emotional testimony of the final prosecution witness, Shannon Allen, whose husband is unable to speak and needs help with everyday tasks after being shot in the head while searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Georgia National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen’s daughter is now 9 years old, and “he’s never had the chance to really play with her,” she said.
Bergdahl, who faces up to life in prison for endangering his comrades after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Facing justice, Bergdahl told the judge he didn’t mean to cause harm when he folded his clothing and walked off his post in 2009. Bergdahl was encouraged to abandon his brothers-in-arms over his left-leaning political views by his father.
Bergdahl spoke for two hours, apologizing to those wounded and killed searching for him. He also described his captivity and the challenges he still faces with daily life.
He described brutal conditions of his captitivity. He was kept in a cage for four out of the five years after several escape attempts, his muscles atrophying to the point he could barely stand or walk.
Because Bergdahl’s words in court were an unsworn statement, prosecutors won’t be given the chance to cross-examine him.
The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by former President Barack Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It was a highly controversial move at the time, and many veterans groups spoke out against it.
Earlier Monday, the judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, ruled that Donald Trump’s scathing criticism of Bergdahl — made first as a candidate and reaffirmed as commander-in-chief — won’t prevent the soldier from receiving a fair sentence. Nance also said that a reasonable member of the public would not have doubts about the fairness of military justice because of Trump’s comments.
He rejected a defense request to rule that it would be unfair to give Bergdahl any prison time.
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The hearing is expected to last several more days.
The Associated Press contributed to this article