The Latest: Viability of Bergdahl trial date in doubt


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on pretrial hearings taking place this week for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (all times local):

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4:35 p.m.

A military judge has cast doubt on the viability of the early 2017 military trial date for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, stopped short of changing the trial date but gave the defense a significant scheduling concession on Monday.

The defense has argued that trial deadlines have been jeopardized by the pace at which prosecutors are producing classified information that the defense needs. Prosecutors acknowledged Monday that they were likely to miss an upcoming pretrial deadline on the documents.

The judge then told the defense that they could propose a significant revamping of pretrial deadlines. He said he may consider changing the trial date in the future.

Defense attorney Eugene Fidell said after the hearing that there is “a lot of doubt” surrounding the Feb. 6 trial date.

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4:20 p.m.

A military judge is requiring a top general to testify about why he destroyed letters he received about the Bowe Bergdahl case.

Army Col. Jeffery Nance decided Monday to make the leader of U.S. Army Forces Command testify later this week during a pretrial hearing in Bergdahl’s case on criminal accusations related to his 2009 disappearance. Nance says that Gen. Robert Abrams has the option of testifying by phone or in person.

Abrams, who chose to refer Bergdahl’s case to a general court-martial instead of a lower-level tribunal, has acknowledged destroying around 100 letters that were largely sent by the general public regarding the Bergdahl case. He sent them to an incinerator in a “burn bag.”

Nance expressed skepticism about whether the approximately 100 letters are relevant to the case, but that he has questions about them.

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12:45 p.m.

A military judge has expressed skepticism that letters destroyed by a top general are relevant to the prosecution of Bowe Bergdahl on charges that he deserted his post in Afghanistan.

The judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, is likely to decide Monday whether the general must testify this week during pretrial hearings this week at Fort Bragg.

Bergdahl’s attorneys argue that Gen. Robert B. Abrams faced improper conflicts when he referred Bergdahl for a general court-martial rather than a lower-level prosecution. He has acknowledged burning dozens of letters that were largely from the public regarding the Bergdahl case.

The destruction of the letters is one of several arguments by the defense that Abrams should be disqualified from the case.

Prosecutors argue the letters didn’t constitute evidence and that Abrams shouldn’t be required to testify.

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Attorneys for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will try to convince a judge this week that the U.S. military has mishandled its prosecution of the soldier on charges that he deserted his post in Afghanistan.

Among the issues being considered during pretrial hearings is whether Gen. Robert B. Abrams faced improper conflicts when he referred Bergdahl for a general court-martial rather than a lower-level prosecution.

Defense attorneys argue that Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, should be disqualified from the case because of a prior advisory role during efforts to return Bergdahl from captivity. In a separate motion, the defense contends Abrams was influenced by negative comments by U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Legal experts say the motions are longshots, but are likely to stoke courtroom drama.

Bergdahl is from Hailey, Idaho.

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