FORT BRAGG, N. C. -- Deliberation began Thursday morning in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's sentencing on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Maj. Justin Oshana, the prosecutor, asked the judge to sentence Bergdahl to 14 years in prison and a punitive discharge, pointing to the chaos that erupted after the Hailey native walked away from his outpost in Paktika Province in Afghanistan in June 2009.
"Sgt. Bergdahl ignored his duty. He abandoned his post and platoon," Oshana said. "Fourteen years is not only an appropriate sentence in this case, it is what justice requires."
Three service members were severely injured on missions to search for Bergdahl, including Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who was shot in the head. Allen survived the shooting, but remains "minimally conscious" and unable to speak, walk, or move purposefully.
Oshana said Allen is left "trapped in a body he cannot control" because of Bergdahl's decision to leave his post, and argued that Bergdahl's own injuries from being tortured by his captors do not absolve him of responsibility.
"Bergdahl does not have a monopoly on suffering as a result of his choices," he said.
Although the defense presented evidence that Bergdahl suffers from mental health issues including schizotypal disorder - a condition that can limit patients' ability to appropriately weigh potential consequences - Oshana argued that Bergdahl understood his disappearance would set off alarms and send other soldiers pouring into the area to look for him.
Likewise, Bergdahl took precautions against his own capture - purchasing a disguise, bringing a knife - that suggest he realized the danger in which he was placing himself, and by extension, his would-be rescuers.
"It wasn't a mistake," Oshana told the judge. "It was a crime."
But Bergdahl's defense team argued that sending the traumatized soldier to prison would be inappropriate. Capt. Nina Banks recommended Bergdahl receive a dishonorable discharge, but no confinement in a military prison.
Banks pointed to Bergdahl's brutal treatment by the Taliban as she asked Lt. Col. Jeffrey Nance for leniency. Bergdahl recounted earlier this week how he was beaten, burned, starved and locked in a cage for years, resulting in permanent physical issues and mental scars.
"Sgt. Bergdahl has been punished enough," Banks said. "It is undisputed that Bergdahl paid a bitter price for decisions he made in June 2009."
The defense also argued that Bergdahl did not grasp the severity of what he was doing when he snuck off his outpost in 2009. The soldier has said he was planning to run about 20 miles to a nearby base to speak to a general about what he saw as serious issues in his unit.
"He left because he thought he was achieving a bigger purpose," Banks said. "He did not intend harm."
Bergdahl spent most of the hearing looking down at the table in front of him, occasionally blinking rapidly and clenching his jaw.
A dishonorable discharge would strip Bergdahl of all benefits and make it difficult for him to find other employment.
Nance entered into deliberations shortly before noon Thursday. His decision is expected Friday at the earliest.
This story will be updated.
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