Bergdahl mostly silent, and lacking medals, in Fort Bragg appearance

Bergdahl arrives at court Jan. 12

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN) – Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to a military courtroom in North Carolina as he faces charges stemming from walking off his Army outpost in Afghanistan.

An Army judge held the pre-trial hearing Tuesday at Fort Bragg ahead of an expected court-martial this summer on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The topics to be covered at the hearing haven’t been disclosed.

Bergdahl remains silent throughout except to answer, “Yes sir,” when asked if he wanted to proceed with the agenda.

In court Tuesday, the defense acknowledged that Bergdahl was without four medals on his uniform. Those included a Purple Heart and a Prisoner of War medal. The lawyer said public appearances without the medals casts a presumption of guilt.

But the judge said any prejudice caused by the lack of medals is minimal. The main focus was on how classified information should be used in the case. There are nearly 300,000 pages of classified documents in the case. The judge will decide at a later date how the documents wilble handled.

There were some supporters of Bergdahl at the hearing.

John Heuer met Bergdahl in August at a “veterans for peace” convention in San Diego.

“We’re concerned that Bergdahl may be  possibly treated as a scapegoat for failed policy 15 years of warfare in Afghanistan that has failed to achieve objectives,” Heuer said.

Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for five years in Afghanistan and freed from the militant group in a prisoner exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Bergdahl was arraigned during a short hearing last month, but did not enter a plea on the charges. He could get a life sentence if convicted of the relatively rare charge of misbehavior before the enemy.

There is still no plea or word if Bergdahl will choose a military judge or a military jury to determine verdict. The tentative trial date is set for August.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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