Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. army sergeant facing charges after disappearing from his Afghan base in 2009 and subsequently being held captive by the Taliban, may face a lower-level court martial and be spared jail time, his lawyer told BuzzFeed News Saturday.
Sgt. Bergdahl is facing a potential life-term after being charged in March with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy.
But on Saturday, Bergdahl's attorney Eugene Fidell told BuzzFeed News that Lt. Col. Mark Visger, the officer in charge of the sergeant's Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury), recommended the charges be referred to a special court martial and that Bergdahl be spared jail time or a punitive discharge from the army.
Confirming reports by other media outlets, Fidell welcomed Visger's recommendations to Gen. Robert Abrams, the head of Army Forces Command who is overseeing the case.
"While we had a number of comments on Lt. Col. Visger's report, we feel it was balanced, careful, and humane," Fidell said.
The sergeant went missing from his base in Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 30, 2009, and was subsequently held by a Taliban-affiliated group until his release last year as part of a prisoner swap deal involving five senior Taliban figures.
Bergdahl has claimed he left the base to draw attention to the troubling conditions in his service unit.
However, the deal to trade Bergdahl for five senior Taliban figures was criticized by some who argued he had intentionally deserted his command.
Last month, it was revealed the reporters behind the wildly popular podcast Serial may spend an upcoming season delving into the circumstances behind Bergdahl's disappearance.