Bowe Bergdahl, U.S. soldier held by Taliban for 5 years, pleads guilty to desertion

FT. BRAGG, NC - DECEMBER 22: Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, leaves a military courthouse on December 22, 2015 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl was arraigned on charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and spent five years in captivity before being freed in a prisoner exchange. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier held as a Taliban captive in Afghanistan for five years, has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy, according to reports by the BBC and FOX News.

The 31-year-old Army sergeant entered his plea on Monday before a military judge at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Idaho native’s lawyers have argued he cannot get a fair trial following criticism from Donald Trump during last year’s presidential campaign.

Mr Trump had called him “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”

It’s not clear if Bergdahl, 31, has a deal with prosecutors to limit his punishment, or if he’s simply pleading guilty in hopes of leniency from the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the desertion charge is punishable by up to five years.

Bergdahl’s lawyers are expected to reveal in court Monday whether there’s a plea agreement in place to cap his punishment, or if he’s pleading guilty without such a deal in what’s known colloquially as a “naked plea.” In either scenario, his punishment won’t be known until after the judge holds the sentencing hearing that’s expected to start on Oct. 23. Bergdahl, who’s from Hailey, Idaho, previously chose to have his case heard by a judge alone, rather than a jury.