The court-martial trial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who was held captive for five years after being captured by the Taliban, has been delayed for a second time as defense officials grapple with how to review reams of evidence in the case, Army officials said Monday.
Bergdahl, 30, will now face trial beginning May 15 at Fort Bragg, N.C., Army officials said in a statement. The trial had been scheduled for August, and then for February. The decision to postpone was made after the prosecution asked last month for a continuance to May 1. The defense team, which has been unable to review some of the evidence in the case because it is highly classified, argued that the trial should be delayed until June.
Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in a general court-martial, the most serious form the U.S. military convenes. He could be sentenced to up to life in prison for disappearing from his infantry platoon’s base in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on June 30, 2009, spawning a five-year manhunt that ultimately resulted in the Obama administration swapping five Taliban officials for him in a controversial trade in May 2014.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban within hours of leaving his base. He was ultimately held captive and tortured over the border in Pakistan for most of the next five years by the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban, U.S. officials have said.
Bergdahl has said he left his base with plans to run 19 miles to a larger base and report what he believed was poor leadership in his unit.
The decision to delay the trial was made at Fort Bragg during a pretrial hearing that will continue Tuesday. The defense team is working to obtain computer hardware and software that is capable of handling classified records.
President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly bashed Bergdahl during his campaign for the White House. Trump has called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and suggested that he should be dropped off in Afghanistan or executed for leaving his unit. Berghahl’s legal team lodged complaints and legal motions in an attempt to curb the rhetoric.
“Mr. Trump is treating Sergeant Bergdahl as a political chew toy,” Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s top lawyer, said in an interview with The Washington Post last year. “What he is doing is very unfair, and we’re not going to tolerate it.”
Bergdahl has been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, according to military documents associated with the case. The mental condition is considered a variant of schizophrenia, but with briefer periods of psychotic episodes.
The investigating officer in Bergdahl’s case, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, testified last year during a pretrial hearing that Bergdahl was “unrealistically idealistic” about life and had “outsize impressions of his capabilities” when he left his unit. But the general added that he did not think it would be appropriate for Bergdahl to receive jail time.
This story has been corrected to clarify that the prosecution, not the defense, requested a continuance in the trial.