He was in and out of the arraignment at Fort Bragg after also deferring to enter a type of trial - by peers or a judge.
Bergdahl entered his request to be defended by civilian lawyer Eugene Fidell and military lawyer Captain Frank Rosenblatt rather than the appointed detailed military defense counselor.
Bergdahl defers plea and type of trial (by peers or judge). In and out of arraignment in 15 min. Next court date: Jan. 12. #ABC11Eyewitness— Jon Camp (@JonCampABC11) December 22, 2015
Sitting at attention in the courtroom, Bergdahl answered military judge Colonel Christopher T. Frederick succinctly with "Yes sir, I do," when asked if he understood his options.
His next court date is Jan. 12. If convicted at a general court-martial, Bergdahl could get life in prison on the misbehavior charge and up to five years for desertion.
Bergdahl, 29, of Hailey, Idaho, walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 30, 2009. He was released in late May 2014 as part of a prisoner swap, in exchange for five detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The move touched off a firestorm of criticism, with some in Congress accusing President Barack Obama of jeopardizing the safety of a nation with the exchange.
Bergdahl's disappearance and the possibility that he might face light punishment had angered many in the military, who say his fellow soldiers took considerable risks to search for him.
Bergdahl attorney Eugene Fidell has said the Army did not follow the advice of a preliminary hearing officer in choosing to pursue a general court-martial. Instead, Lt. Col. Mark Visger had recommended that Bergdahl's case be referred to a special court-martial, which is a misdemeanor-level forum.
Bergdahl walks out of court after deferring plea. Charge "Misbehaving before the enemy" carries poss life sentence. pic.twitter.com/X1x6O8oV5n— Jon Camp (@JonCampABC11) December 22, 2015
The charges against Bergdahl had been announced by the Army in March, before Visger reviewed the evidence as part of an Article 32 proceeding, which is similar to a grand jury.
The charge of misbehavior before the enemy was used hundreds of times during World War II, but scholars say its use appears to have dwindled in conflicts since then. Legal databases and media accounts turn up only a few misbehavior cases since 2001, when fighting began in Afghanistan, followed by Iraq less than two years later. In contrast, statistics show the U.S. Army prosecuted about 1,900 desertion cases between 2001 and the end of 2014.
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