Bergdahl's ex-squad leader: I was told to drop concerns

Sep 18, 2015 2:25 PM by News Staff

SAN ANTONIO -- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's former squad leader testified Friday that before Bergdahl walked away from his post in Afghanistan six years ago, he expressed concern that Bergdahl didn't seem to be adjusting well to their deployment but was told to be quiet.

Former Sgt. Greg Leatherman said that when he told his first sergeant that he thought Bergdahl should speak to someone such as a chaplain, the officer told him to drop the matter.

"First sergeant said he didn't want one of his guys telling him what was wrong with somebody in his company," Leatherman told the packed courtroom at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where Bergdahl has been stationed since returning to the U.S. last year after five years in captivity.

Bergdahl's lawyers began their defense of the Idaho native on the second day of his Article 32 hearing, which will determine if Bergdahl will face a court-martial, by calling Leatherman as the first of their four witnesses.

His lead attorney, Eugene Fidell, said Bergdahl would not be testifying and that any relevant information about his capture by the Taliban is included in an extensive interview Bergdahl gave military investigators last year. He repeated his call for that report to be released, saying it would help tell Bergdahl's side of the story and counteract some of the negative publicity he has faced since being exchanged for five Taliban commanders.

Curtis Aberle, a family nurse practitioner at Fort Sam Houston who has been treating Bergdahl, said the Idaho native suffered extensive injuries during his time as a prisoner that have made him unfit to remain in the military.

He said Bergdahl has muscular nerve damage in his lower legs, a degenerative disc in his lower back and an injury that has left him with limited movement in his shoulder, and that the injuries were caused by Bergdahl being kept in a crouched position for extended periods.

Aberle said Bergdahl also suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, but he didn't mention any other psychiatric issues Bergdahl may have.

While cross-examining witnesses called by the prosecution on Thursday, one of Bergdahl's lawyers mentioned that Bergdahl had received a psychological discharge from the U.S. Coast Guard and that an Army psychiatric board had concluded that Bergdahl possessed a "severe mental defect."

Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a military trial. If Bergdahl is tried and convicted of the misbehavior charge, he could get life in prison. He also could be dishonorably discharged, reduced in rank and made to forfeit all pay if he's convicted.

The officer presiding over the hearing will forward his recommendations to Gen. Robert Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command. Abrams will decide whether the case should be referred to a court-martial or be resolved in another manner.


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