Choose Your City
Change City

U.S. Army deserter Bergdahl idealistic, impulsive: expert

By Greg Lacour

By Greg Lacour

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) - U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl is a bright but naive soldier who suffers from several mental health conditions and is willing to break rules to do what he believes is right, a forensic psychiatrist testified on Wednesday.

The disorders played "a big role" in Bergdahl's decision to leave his post in Afghanistan in June 2009 and likely would be exacerbated if he is sent to prison, Dr. Charles Morgan III, who examined Bergdahl, said at the soldier's sentencing hearing.

Bergdahl, 31, a sergeant, faces up to life in confinement after pleading guilty last month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. His defense this week has called witnesses intended to persuade a military judge to show leniency.

The Idaho native has said he ditched his duties to report problems in his chain of command and never intended to put fellow troops in harm's way. He was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years.

"He was an idealistic young man who didn’t always sound everybody out on his plans," Morgan said.

Morgan says Bergdahl has post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as schizotypal personality disorder, which includes anxiety, eccentric behavior and grandiose thinking; social phobia; and some cognitive deficits that became worse during his captivity.

"He responds quickly, perhaps too fast, in trying to find solutions to a problem and acting on it," the doctor said at the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina. "That played a big role in his decision to 'OK, let’s go.'"

Bergdahl has been criticized by political leaders in Washington and fellow soldiers, both for the dangerous search to find him and the 2014 Taliban prisoner swap brokered by the Democratic Obama administration that won his release.

During his successful campaign for the presidency last year, Donald Trump called Bergdahl "a no-good traitor who should have been executed."

Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, the presiding judge, has ruled that comments by Trump have not affected the fairness of the court proceeding, but said he will consider them a mitigating factor.

Prosecutors last week called multiple witnesses, including service members who described the hazards they faced during hastily organized missions to rescue Bergdahl. Several were badly injured, including Master Sergeant Mark Allen, who was shot in the head, leaving him unable to speak or walk.

Bergdahl has been serving as a clerk at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio since his release.

(Writing by Scott Malone and Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Trott)