WASHINGTON - The lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.
Eugene R. Fidell, a well-known lawyer and military justice expert, told The Associated Press that he assumes the probe will be done in several weeks.
"There are people who have vilified Sgt. Bergdahl, there are people who attempted to turn him into a kind of pinata," said Fidell, who teaches at Yale Law School. "On the other hand, there are people of good will who have communicated with me their sympathy for the experience Sgt. Bergdahl has had to undergo, the ordeal really."
Some former members of the unit Bergdahl served with in Afghanistan have labeled him a deserter, asserting that he chose to walk away and saying some service members were wounded or killed looking for him.
At the time of his disappearance, Bergdahl was a member of 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. An initial U.S. military investigation in 2009 concluded that Bergdahl deliberately walked away from his unit, based on evidence available at the time.
The Army has not ruled out disciplinary action against Bergdahl, who was promoted during captivity, from private first class to sergeant, as a matter of standard procedure.
"Everybody should just hold the phone. Let the facts unfold a little bit," said Fidell, adding that he has met with Bergdahl as well as the Army officer handling the case, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl.
He said Dahl is proceeding in a "methodical and professional way." The Pentagon says Bergdahl has not yet met with Dahl.
Bergdahl has completed his initial reintegration into the Army after his release by the Taliban May 31, when he was turned over to Army special forces in exchange for five detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center. He is now assigned a desk job at U.S. Army North, at San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
Fidell added that Bergdahl is looking forward to having this entire matter behind him, and that the soldier has a lot of faith in the common sense of the American people. He said Bergdahl also is deeply grateful that President Barack Obama saved his life.
"Let's all be a little patient. We'll know more in due course," said Fidell, in a satellite interview from Yale. "I hope that the matter can be resolved sooner rather than later so that Sgt. Bergdahl can become plain old Bowe Bergdahl and return to private life and get on with his life."