What Bergdahl Said in His Unexpected Testimony

He took the stand at sentencing hearing Monday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 30, 2017 4:05 PM CDT
Bergdahl Unexpectedly Takes the Stand
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves the Fort Bragg courtroom facility after a sentencing hearing on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, on Fort Bragg, NC.   (Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer via AP)

In an unexpected and emotional statement, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl apologized in court Monday to all the military personnel who were wounded searching for him and described the daily nightmares and flashbacks to his five years in captivity by Taliban allies he still endures. Bergdahl was the first witness in what's expected to be a multi-day presentation by the defense to the judge who will decide his punishment for endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He spoke for two hours, giving a wide-ranging description of his brutal years in captivity and what challenges he still faces with daily life, the AP reports. "I would like everyone who searched for me to know it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen," he said, choking up at times. "My words alone can't take away their pain."

His appearance on the witness stand, which the defense hadn't publicly made known in advance, served as a dramatic counterpoint to several days of emotionally wrenching testimony by several service members who were seriously wounded during a massive search effort. He described the brutal conditions he faced, including beatings with copper wire and unending bouts of gastrointestinal problems brought on by squalid conditions. He was kept in a cage for four out of the five years after several escape attempts, and his muscles atrophied to the point he could barely stand or walk. Bergdahl said he still has nightmares that make it hard to sleep more than five hours. The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, faces a maximum of life in prison after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Because his words in court were an unsworn statement, prosecutors won't be given the chance to cross-examine him.

(More Bowe Bergdahl stories.)

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