As suspected here, and expected here, the Associated Press reports here that Sergeant Bergdahl pleaded guilty this morning.

Surprisingly, the guilty pleas (a dive) were entered without the benefit of a pretrial agreement (a naked plea). From the AP report:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a Taliban captive for five years after abandoning his post in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty Monday to desertion and misbehavior-before-the-enemy charges that could put him in prison for life.

“I understand that leaving was against the law,” said Bergdahl, whose decision to walk off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 prompted intense search and recovery missions, during which some of his comrades were seriously wounded.

Bergdahl, 31, is accused of endangering his comrades by abandoning his post without authorization. He told a general after his release from five years in enemy hands that he did it with the intention of reaching other commanders and drawing attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

The prosecution made no agreement to limit Bergdahl’s punishment in return for the soldier’s guilty pleas. The judge, Army Col. Judge Jeffery R. Nance, reminded Bergdahl that he could spend the rest of his life in prison, and asked him one last time if he wanted to plead guilty. “Yes,” Bergdahl replied, and the judge accepted the pleas.

(emphasis added).

58 Responses to “Bergdahl dives naked”

  1. k fischer says:

    Anybody know how he was provident to desertion and the misbehavior charge?  Because it sounds like what he told the IO and those guys over at Serial about attempting to walk to another FOB to report his CoC was bs. 

  2. Former DC says:

    Quoting from the Fox News report:  here.
    “I understand that leaving was against the law,” said Bergdahl, whose decision to walk off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 prompted intense search and recovery missions, during which some of his comrades were seriously wounded and other soldiers died.  “At the time, I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations,” Bergdahl said, but he added he now understand that his decision prompted efforts to find him.
    Looks like no stip of facts, either.

  3. Old TC says:

    I look forward to the RCM 1001(b)(4) litigation to come.  

  4. Zachary D Spilman says:

    So, Former DCFox News reports that Bergdahl’s plea inquiry included the claim:

    At the time, I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations

    But in the same story Fox News also reports that:

    Bergdahl himself told a general during a preliminary investigation that he left intending to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit. He was soon captured.

    And during his interviews with Mark Boal, as incorporated into the Serial podcast (discussed here), Bergdahl said:

    Bowe Bergdahl: A man disappears from a TCP, and a few days later, after DUSTWUN is called up, he reappears at a FOB? Suddenly, because of the DUSTWUN, everybody is alerted. CIA is alerted. The navy is alerted. The marines are alerted. Air force is alerted. Not just army.

    Sarah Koenig: Which means that when he reappears, it’ll be such a big deal. There’ll be such a commotion. Everyone will want to know why he left and why he’s back. And so he’ll be able to get an audience with whomever he wants—a general, even—and they won’t be able to ignore his complaints.

    I call bullshit.

  5. Former DC says:

    Not advocating, just trying to answer k’s question.

  6. Zachary D Spilman says:

    I’m not calling it on you, Former DC

  7. Tami a/k/a Princess Leia says:

    So his claim about jntending to go to another FOB was BS?  Because that’s the implication of pleading guilty to desertion.

  8. Bionic Barry Dylan says:

    If ever there were sentencing proceedings I wish I could go witness…

  9. Saul says:

    Zach – do you really think it’s surprising that the government wouldn’t give him a deal which his attorneys would accept?  Maybe I’m wrong but I suspect the government would be reluctant to agree to anything close to what his attorneys want or what COL Nance will give.  So why not take the “risk” here of going naked?   He gets some credit for doing so.
    Tami – pretty sure his intent to go to another FOB is irrelevant for the merits.  He left OP Mest, shirked the important service and hazardous duty of guarding that OP.  The government isn’t charging “long” desertion so no need to show his intent to remain away.
    The Sentencing case will be very interesting.  

  10. Zachary D Spilman says:

    I think it an awfully odd strategy, Saul, to reject a plea agreement as insufficiently generous and instead plead guilty for free. 

  11. Lone Bear says:

    Perhaps you plead naked so you can request witnesses, experts, etc… The Government may have insisted on waiving a lot of issues and protections that you feel like aren’t worth giving up if the deal was for more than say, a year, and it didn’t included discharge protection.  For example, it might be easier this way to keep out classified information that would be harmful in sentencing.  Also the statements to Serial et al might not come in this way. 

  12. Zachary D Spilman says:

    I highly doubt, Lone Bear, that the prosecution in a case this serious and high-profile needs a pretrial agreement to present all the relevant sentencing evidence it has. But I’ll acknowledge that Government bloopers are a real possibility.

  13. AF Capt says:

    I would see the benefits as 1) preservation of waivable issues, 2) no stipping to an unreasonable stip, and 3) ability to play up the plea as a sign of rehabilitation (vice the unspoken argument that a plea pursuant to a PTA is less about rehab than the sentence cap).

  14. Casual Observer says:

    Zach and Tami
    I think caselaw elaborates on the desertion with respect to the issue of “intent” vs. “motivation:
    “Appellant contended that the reason he left his unit was to visit his dying grandmother and resolve a problem regarding his citizenship. He claimed his absence was intended to be temporary, as evidenced by his purchase of a roundtrip ticket to Korea with a return date prior to his unit’s departure for Saudi Arabia. The government contended the reason he left his unit was that appellant went to Kore to be with his girlfriend, a Korean woman married to an American soldier, and because appellant thought it unfair that he had to go to Saudi Arabia but could not reenlist. Appellant’s actual motivation for leaving his unit is unimportant, if as a consequence of that unauthorized absence appellant had reasonable cause to know that he would avoid important service. See United States v. Shull, 2 C.M.R. 83, 88–89 (C.M.A.1952).” United States v. Kim, 35 M.J. 553, 554-555 (A.C.M.R. 1992): 

  15. Tami a/k/A Princess Leia says:

    Saul, thanks for clarifying the theory charged.  I agree there are advantages to naked guilty plea, including being able to state your own facts,  not just what the government wants you to say.  Also by taking that risk,  that sends a powerful message that you trust the judge to do the right.

  16. Zachary D Spilman says:

    I addressed that, Casual Observer, in my April 2015 post: Did Sergeant Bergdahl confess to desertion?

  17. Casual Observer says:

    I remember that post. I guess I’m just confused how you call “BS” when that’s the standard. 

  18. JC89 says:

    Being semi-illiterate in the MCM, what is the process/timeline now for sentencing? Just curious so that I can try and keep up.
    As far as the mitigation aspect, is there any information about where the PR professionals received their information from ref treatment of BB while isolated? Any idea if it was just from BB himself or from other sources.

  19. K fischer says:

    If the intent was to go to another FOB to report his CoC, then would that be to shirk hazardous duty?  Seems he actually took on a more hazardous duty by setting off on his own to perform the greater good.
    There are many reasons to plead naked, particularly if the Government is being unreasonable.  Although, I could see the benefit of a slow guilty plea on this one as well.  Whatever happened to that multiplicity motion?

  20. Mediocre DC says:

    Seems that there are bifurcated proceedings here (CNN reporting sentencing on 23 October).  Anyone know how that happened (i.e. litigated beforehand, etc.). 

  21. Zachary D Spilman says:

    I called bullshit, Casual Observer, on Bergdahl’s reported statements during the plea inquiry that he didn’t intend to cause search and rescue operations, based on his prior statements that he very much intended to cause search and rescue operations.

  22. stewie says:

    Let’s say the Gov was offering 50 years cap on confinement, and that’s it?
    I mean from the defense’s point of view, they can get that on their own, why agree to it and sign a stip and everything. Now, I don’t know what the Gov offered. It may have been objectively reasonable, and the defense is being dumb to reject. Or, it could be pretty unreasonable and the Defense is making the right call to go naked since the worst case there is about the same as the deal itself.
    The only reason to plead guilty with a PTA is because you think it offers you some protection. If the PTA doesn’t do that, there is zero reason to do a PTA. So this is either a risky move (if the Defense is being unreasonable about the PTA) or it is the only move (if the Gov is being unreasonable about the PTA).

  23. Concerned Defender says:

    Fascinating development on a naked plea.  It’s a rare beast, especially with a LIFE SENTENCE on the table…  Seems you’d want some top cover.  It is possible the defense attorneys could not even secure a 20 year cap?  Who cares about admitting to bad facts, it’s not like pleading in any event isn’t going to be admitting to bad facts as it is.  I’d say that it’s more likely the government wasn’t willing to provide any reasonable cap because it’s such a clear case.
    I see little merit in pleading naked on this one.  It’s been a long time since I’ve considered a naked plea, but can someone who knows discuss whether the government can still introduce witnesses and evidence to prove up aggravation elements?  For instance if BB is luke warm and only barely admits the minimum culpability, can the government introduce additional evidence that pushes the criminality further?  And not just on sentencing but on merits?  Or mendacity issues – because BB’s story has apparently changed quite a lot. 
    The sentencing will be interesting.  As for pleading as a means to introduce “rehabilitation” I don’t think that gets him very far.  He’s done nothing but deny publically his culpability for years now.  His plea now is just his coming to terms with how bad this is and attempting to mitigate.  
    As a final thought, it seems a lot of hope of preserving appellate issues is going to be dashed on the rocks since pleading guilty is the strongest form of evidence in the law.  He’s had competent and aggressive counsel, so even if there were some issues on this or that for the ~10 lost motions, pleading guilty in my view washes away all or most of those issues.  How do you argue UCI for a prosecution, for instance, when you stand there and plead you did the crime(s)??  No longer then, is that a UCI issue in my view, as it moots how you got to a trial.  You did the crimes…  
    Just my 2 cents. 

  24. Casual Observer says:

    Fair enough and point taken, although I would love to get the transcript and see exactly what he said, and in what context.

  25. Concerned Defender says:

    I don’t often find myself agreeing with Stewie, but here I do. 
    If hypothetically the government’s offer is say 50 years, then that’s absurd.  From the accused point of view.  
    This is objectively a 10-30 year case.   I’d say the realistic sentence is in that range with 30 being the very high end.  Then it’s just about the details.  The government may have in fact played their hand correctly by refusing to deal.  
    BB made some really bad pre-desertion and post-freedom statements, and that is to discuss reasons for deserting.  In simple terms, I’ll call that “lying.”  So he’s really boxed himself in with a psuedo mendacity issues.   I don’t see how he can truthfully reconcile the vastly different reasons for his deserting.  
    If you were an accused, you’d probably prefer a “reasonable” deal.  Right?  Seems the government’s hand is so strong it’s forcing BB to go in naked.  
    The fact that the government doesn’t need him to cop to a stip even for say a 20 year cap, is telling.  They have their case and I don’t see how they could lose in a trial – bench or panel.  The government has the letters/emails to his family, statements from his peers, serious aggravation from those injured/killed searching for him, contrary post-freedom statements, and so forth.
    In terms of the hatred and anger by the military community, and in terms of sending a very strong message, BB could very well get a Bradly Manning type sentence or worse.  Manning received around a 30-35 year confinement sentence for stealing and giving away TS documents while deployed.  
    If you had to pick which is worse conduct between the two, I’d say they are both really really bad behavior and would not necessarily be surprised if BB gets a sentence commensurate with Manning.  Given the government’s apparently dis-interest in providing any reasonable deal, which limits BB’s options of a trial or a naked plea, perhaps government counsel feels likewise. 
    I would not be surprised if we see a 30 year sentence, minus 1-1 or 2-1 credit for captivity, E1, and DD.   I don’t think it’s realistic to think he gets no significant confinement, nor is it at all realistic to think he avoids a severe punitive discharge.
    We should have an over-under thread on this before sentencing…

  26. Nohomo King says:

    This naked plea just sealed BB’s sentence — DD with no confinement.  Confinement was on the table if he had a cap.  Brilliant move by the defense team.

  27. Saul says:

    Stewie – agreed completely. It’s odd how the PHO and IO both were in the other side of this, they would have given very light punishment compared to what the government was presumably seeking. But the case itself, merits, is very strong.
    Then of course there’s the fact that this PTA would go to a 4 star general in a command that doesn’t do courts martial routinely. Presumably he has experience as a GCMCA but not in that position. Don’t know how much that matters but if he’s looking at all at politics he’s under some pressure to not agree to a light sentence.

  28. RY says:

    Pleading naked largely accedes to strength of Gov’t findings case and allows Defense to shape the case from the beginning by telling its version of guilt, and then spend the bulk of trial discussing the person on trial.  Pleading naked gives more control to the defense and shifts focus to what the case is worth.  That’s a better place for the defense to be than to spend so many days litigating the merits and discussing aggravating testimony.  If the gov’t does not offer a reasonable cap and/or wanted defense to waive motions they have been hell-bent on raising and no-doubt want to preserve, I’m not at all surprised there’s no PTA.  In my experience, a calculated naked plea can work amazing for defense in the right cases.   

  29. Sally Longbow says:

    RY, well said.  And, honestly, the potential sentence here is “life” in name only.  Does anyone honestly think that any more than, say, five years is on the table?  Isn’t it much more likely that this judge (or any judge) will give him little to no confinement?

  30. Anon says:

    The people that think BB will get more than 5-10 years are the same ones that don’t think spending five years with the Taliban is a mitigating factor since he deserted his post and it’s his fault he was captured.  However it is a mitigating factor.
    If he gets more than five years confinement, the M.J. will most likely give credit for his “free stay” with the Taliban.

  31. Abe Froman says:

    Agreed with Anon….I am assuming that he will present evidence about his treatment with the Taliban through expert testimony.  Didn’t some of that get produced at the A32?
     From what I have read, he was tortured, beaten, starved, treated worse than a dog, etc…  That seems to be strong evidence in mitigation.  Plus, I imagine that the defense will try and walk the fine line of MH issues without reopening providency. 

  32. Lincoln says:

    Concerned Defendersays:
    October 16, 2017 at 5:13 PM

     He’s had competent and aggressive counsel,

    That’s being overly generous.  One of them has never tried a case, ever.  And some of the focal points, like Candidate Trump’s comments, have just drawn this out for no reason.  They are just lucky the G is not any better.

  33. Bionic Barry Dyaln says:

    While true that there is going to be strong mitigation evidence (whether it is actual evidence in mitigation under the rules or not) about Bergdahl’s treatment while in captivity, there is likewise going to be some very serious evidence in aggravation.  Add that to the fact that he appears to have changed his story, which at least casts some doubt on the sincerity of his taking responsibility for his actions, and I think a severe sentence with double digit years of confinement is still very much on the table.

  34. Concerned Defender says:

    @ Lincoln – which of BB’s counsel has never tried a case?

  35. Concerned Defender says:

    I hope government counsel is tracking these threads, and I’m sure they are. 
    For about 3 years BB has – through counsel and otherwise – tried to convince everyone he is innocent and this entire process is a sham and he didn’t do it, and he’s only facing trial because of unfair UCI.  Now, pretty much only because he’s boxed in, is he admitting guilt.  That’s not rehabilitation, it’s a last ditch strategy when all else has failed.  Now it is his right to plead guilty.  But it’s going to be very tricky to put all these effective “lies” in a box to reconcile them with his now guilty plea.  And I hope his sentence is aggravated by his prior “inconsistent statements” both pre-desertion and post-rescue. 
    Folks are parroting that he was abused in captivity, and there will be compelling expert testimony, and this will be mitigation that carries the day.  Please share your insights about the abuses with the rest of us in the peanut gallery.  
    Yes, I’ve read Bergdahl’s accounts of his alleged “torture.”  Yet the photos of him in captivity and thereafter he appears fed, clothed, and he is still medically fit for duty and has been working for several years.  Presumably his PT scores are passing.  I don’t have insights into his medical records, but unlike some war vet POWs who were starved to bones or had disfiguring injuries, BB has none of these long-term issues to my knowledge.  
    And let’s just keep in mind that the information we know of his “captivity” of going to live with the Taliban – one of the few folks  that doesn’t end up beheaded oddly enough – is from BB himself, and we know he hasn’t been exactly truthful.  Or forthright.  Afterall, he’s spent years protesting his innocence and claiming he’s on trial due to UCI.  
    I believe folks are making FAR TOO MUCH of his captivity, which was the natural and probably result of his own misconduct.  If the government is reading this, I would have on the witness list other Soldiers who deployed repeatedly from 2009 – 2014, and were injured, and also provide the Judge with a list of all those who died doing their duties from 2009-2014 who did NOT desert their post.  I think the whole “sympathy” play for his captivity is a load of horse ****.   Soldiers who did their duties in that time frame deployed, got injured and even died while BB was in his “abusive captivity” that left him unharmed long term.  And again, it was the direct and proximate foreseeable result of his misconduct.  I cannot fathom getting much sympathy or mitigation from any other area of the law where an accused gets sympathy for the injury he sustains from breaking the law. 
    @ Sally Longbow – I would encourage you to read as many social media and news comments on this case as you can stomach.  By about a 999 to 1 margin, American hate him and veterans want him to either hang, be shot, or spend the rest of his life in prison.  The word “traitor” and “coward” appears in practically every comment.  It is rare that I read any person posting anything sympathetic for BB.  The damage that will be done to the armed services, good order, discipline, and morale if BB gets a result less severe than a 10 year confinement and a DD will be dramatic.  I’ve gone back and forth with how severe this sentence will be, but believe the end will be in the 10-30 year range.  
    The Military Judge is responsible for crafting a sentence that addresses many factors.  Looking out for the overall Good Order and Discipline and sending a strong message of Deterrence is one of the key things that must be done.  With the public outrage and hatred of BB in the military, that is a key message that is accomplished by a harsh sentence similar to Manning’s 3 decades or more.  Keep in mind the public outrage when Manning’s sentence was commuted after seven or so years as well.  
    I also believe government counsel should stack the courtroom with members of his former unit or other units for broadest exposure and argue this good order and discipline and deterrence message.  This case is going to send a message one way or the other on the military’s position with deserters and those committing misbehavior and I believe for the health of the military the MJ should drop the hammer.

  36. Anon says:

    The 32 hearing record disclosed some of the physical abuse he endured via testimony and medical records from his assigned physician once he was reintegrated. Apparently he tried to take a PT last year and his legs swelled up so bad he could barely walk and wear boots. He also has bad shoulder and back problems due to being chained to a bed for a year. I’m not a doubter of the abuse he endured. 

  37. stewie says:

    Yes Barry, but it’s that aggravation that gets it up to double digit years possibly in the first place. BEFORE you add in the five years of by all accounts pretty horrendous captivity.
    So, once you subtract B from A, it strikes me that the chances of C being a particularly large number, while not non-existent, are fairly low.
    Doesn’t mean it can’t happen…judges are individual humans who have their own buttons, COL Nance could decide to do anything from no punishment to double digit years without it being too, too surprising. But if I had to bet, I’d guess at worst we are talking single digit years.

  38. stewie says:

    Gotta love folks who just come in out of nowhere and crap on counsel on both sides.

  39. Vulture says:

    I’ll be guessing that that other .1 percent are the social media gurus reading CAAFLog.  They’re saying “These Court Martial people are crazy.”

  40. Saul says:

    CD – I might have missed it, but when did he claim he didn’t commit the misconduct charged? His defense team has tried a lot of diversionary tactics, presumably with the strategy that they needed to win the case before trial, precisely because he’s admitted to the charges. 
    I’d love to hear the judge’s thoughts on deterrence here. Does anyone really think a light sentence would prompt other soldiers to walk off their FOB or OP in hostile territory? 

  41. Frank Lee says:

    Nice bookend to the Terry Lakin trial, wouldn’t you say?
    And CAAFLOG Alum Eugene Fidell has earned his kudos bigly.

  42. F. Lee Bayleaf says:

    Saul, you are, of course, right—the decision to desert in hostile territory is so divorced from rational thinking that the sentence here should have no deterrent effect whatsoever.  But I do wonder about its effect on good order and discipline.  I get the sense that the vast majority of Soldiers know a lot about this case and have a real problem with BB’s conduct.  They will most certainly find out what the sentence is here.  I wonder if that might factor into the judge’s thinking.

  43. AF Capt says:

    Outside of white collar crime, I’ve always questioned the deterrent value of punishment.  For the most part, your “run of the mill” crimes (drugs, sex offenses, assaults) tend to be either heat of the moment or committed by people not prone to well thought out decisions.  They are unlikely to weigh the relative risk of being caught and potential for punishment in light of being caught.
    That said, deterrence would seem to be applicable for other BBs.  He has stated that this was an effort to raise awareness.  Rather than utilize the chain of command, IG, or even a Congressional, he decided to walk off his FOB.  The result of this was significant risk and harm to a number of other Soldiers and ultimately the exchange of numerous enemy combatants to secure his release.  His is precisely the sort of thought out behavior that a strong punishment may deter, as is also true of the various leakers of classified documents.
    As bad as his conditions of confinement may have been, so too are the conditions under which the Soldiers (and their families) who were sent out to rescue him presently live in.  At the best for Bergdahl, these two merely cancel out one another.  Which leaves you with his commission of a serious offense, for a purpose that could have been met through several legitimate avenues other than the one he chose.

  44. Bionic Barry Dylan says:

    I’m not sure the fact that BB still had his head on his shoulders upon release means his captivity was any more or less brutal.  The Taliban, Al Qaida, ISIS, Haqqani Network, etc. all operate differently – some groups are more likely to engage in kidnapping to achieve their ends, while others are more interested in hacking off heads in propaganda videos. 
    Believe me, I have no sympathy for BB.  I’m prior enlisted/not always been in the legal field and have deployed a fair amount, so I have lots of problems with his conduct.  I agree that any suffering while held by the Taliban was an obviously foreseeable result of walking off the FOB.  However, I don’t think that means his captivity wasn’t fairly brutal, and I think virtually any panel or MJ should consider that accordingly.  Whether it is truly mitigating under the rules or not, we are still human and that human element still exists. 
    That being said, I still think the punishment needs to be and will be severe.  I’d be surprised if it did not include a DD and double digit years of confinement.

  45. Saul says:

    Is there a sentence-pool somewhere?
    I’d take under 5 and a DD.
    If this had been panel, he might have gotten life.

  46. Bionic Barry Dylan says:

    Here’s my entry for the sentence-pool:
    Total Forfeitures, Reduction to E-1, Confinement for 12 Years, Dishonorable Discharge

  47. These Colors Don't Run says:

    TF, E-1, Confinement for 4 years with day for day credit for Taliban captivity, and BCD

  48. Anon says:

    Total Forteitures, Reduction to E-1, Confinement for four years with day for day credit, Dishonorable Discharge.

  49. AF Capt says:

    I’ll go for the unusual sentence.  TF, E-1, 15 years, no BCD… no kick only to preserve the possibility of receiving VA related medical care following discharge.  See 214 Mil L. Rev. 1 at 212. 

  50. jagaf says:

    E-1, TF, 5 years, DD…2 for 1 credit for the captivity.

  51. DCGoneGalt says:

    DD and a reprimand.  But I like the confinement for the entire period of capture with 1-for-1 credit.
    I’d put money on no jail.

  52. stewie says:

    Somewhere in the single digits on confinement with no confinement a slight possibility, and the type of discharge will depend on how convinced the MJ is that Bergdahl has some mental health issues.

  53. stewie says:

    Side note, can the MJ actually give day-for-day actual confinement credit for time spent with the Taliban?
    I know he can certainly consider it, but actual confinement credit under 305? Or elsewhere?
    Is there a precedent for someone held by the enemy but then getting confinement credit for it?

  54. Bionic Barry Dylan says:

    stewie – was just having that conversation here in the office.  We tend to think that if the MJ is going to give “confinement credit,” he won’t announce it as such on the record…he’ll just announce some lesser amount of confinement/no confinement.

  55. k fischer says:

    I was actually thinking the same thing.  It might not be credit now, but like Allen, Suzuki, and Pierce credit, perhaps CAAF will create “Bergdahl” credit for when a deserting Soldier is captured by enemy forces and confined.
    Reduction to E-1, 90 days hard labor without confinement, no kick.  (This is not what I would give him.  This is what I would bet on.)

  56. DCGoneGalt says:

    What do you think the odds are that the judge just Tweets out the sentence as a surprise?  

  57. Charlie Gittins says:

    Stewie:  After the Viet Nam POWs came home, Stockdale preferred charges against LtCol Edison Miller, USMC for misbehavior as a POW.  The SECNAV decided not to allow a court-martial because of the long confinement Miller served in the VN prison system.  He received a Secretarial Letter of Censure, retired and if he is still alive he is still collecting checks. 

  58. Concerned Defender says:

    I’m on the other end of the spectrum.  
    DD, TF, E1, and 20 years confinement (or over) (in total).  
    The MJ may want to give him more and in deliberations give him some form of psuedo 1-1 or 2-1 or even 3-1 credit and chalk it up as mitigation, off the record. 
    I’d say it works out to the maximum of 5 years on the Desertion and a fraction of the maximum on misbehavior (15 years out of life possible). 
    Why?  Because BB behavior is pretty much textbook on WHY we have these laws, to prevent exactly what happened.  Alarms raised, missions changed, Soldiers placed needlessly in harms way and in fact injured (or killed), and expensive search and rescue, ultimately trading to secure his release (we aren’t supposed to deal with  terrorists, right?!).
    I cannot fathom giving someone a “pass” for the exact behavior which the TWO serious laws are designed to stop.
    One might argue that a sentence for drug use or sex assault does little to curb those rash and impulsive behaviors.  
    As for the sentencing deterrence here, yes, I do believe a hard sentence sends a VERY important and clear message to deter this deliberate and premeditated action.  And I cannot think of another case with more public scrutiny aside from murder cases in the last decade.   This result will be known by every JOE in the services.   Anything short of a severe sentence will be  damaging to Good Order and Discipline.