FORT BRAGG, N.C., Aug. 13 (UPI) — Lawyers for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl filed a motion to have Gen. Robert Abrams removed from his case due to his “substantial prior involvement,” including destroying evidence, court documents show.
According to Army Times, the motion filed on Friday stated Abrams referred charges against Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years, “without considering defense objections to and comments on the report of the preliminary hearing officer.” Attorneys allege Adams burned letters of support that would have been “evidence favorable to the defense.”
The motion also seeks to cancel a Feb. 6 trial and throw out charges against Bergdahl, who allegedly abandoned a remote Army outpost in Afghanistan before being captured by the militant group. It also argues that Bergdahl should not face punishment if charges against him are “re-referred” and he is found guilty.
“This motion is part of an ongoing series of legal motions by defense counsel and trial counsel,” U.S. Army Forces Command spokesman Paul Boyce said. “We continue to maintain careful respect for the military judicial process, the rights of the accused, and ensuring the case’s fairness and impartiality during this ongoing legal case.”
According to Stars and Stripes, Abrams, as the “convening authority” of Forces Command, is held responsible for determining whether soldiers’ cases are sent to trial.
The motion states that Abrams declined to read a list of defense objections and comments before ordering Bergdahl to trial because of their use of legal jargon rather than “plain-speak.”
“He only has to consider it — he doesn’t have to agree with it — but he admitted he didn’t consider it because he felt it wasn’t written plainly enough,” Southwestern Law School professor and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham said. “I think it’s buffoonery. I think it falls far below the standard we expect our convening authorities to adhere to.”
The motion cites the “baffling” admission by Abrams of his decision to burn and cause “irreparable” damage to letters about the case, which “spanned the full spectrum of opinion, and came from all types of people and on both sides of the case.”
“There is no substitute for the letters Gen. Abrams destroyed,” the motion stated. “The spoliation prevents both the court and the defense from knowing precisely how many such letters there were, what they actually said, and, importantly, who wrote them and how we might get in touch with those individuals. This damage is irreparable.”
Bergdahl’s lawyers had previously petitioned to have previous convening authority Gen. Mark Milley removed from the case before he became the Army chief of staff.