Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who spent five years in Taliban captivity after disappearing from his patrol base in Afghanistan, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior charges, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Bergdahl's court-martial was scheduled to begin later this month. Now, instead of a jury, a military judge will determine his sentence and whether the 31-year-old will spend any more time incarcerated, the AP reported. He faces life in prison and a dishonorable discharge from the Army.
An attorney for Bergdahl, Eugene Fidell, declined to comment. The Army would not confirm the AP's reporting.
"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," Army spokesman Paul Boyce said in a written statement.
Prosecutors say Bergdahl left his post without permission in 2009. They've argued that his actions resulted in the death and injury of other troops sent to search for him.
An Army investigation found no evidence that that had occurred, though his critics maintain that dangerous helicopter insertions and other exhausting missions may have indirectly contributed to troops' deaths or injuries in Afghanistan, and that surveillance drones used to track or locate enemy fighters may have been diverted for search-and-rescue missions.
Bergdahl says he was beaten, caged and tortured, held in abhorrent conditions until the Obama administration in May 2014 swapped five Taliban detainees in exchange for the soldier's release. That controversial decision has challenged one of the military's bedrock values: to always bring back its troops, living or dead.
One of Bergdahl's harshest critics has been his commander in chief, President Donald Trump, who has called him a "dirty, rotten traitor" and suggested that, in prior eras, Bergdahl would have been executed.
In fact, only one accused deserter has been executed since the Civil War.
In November 2015, Trump brought up Bergdahl at a campaign rally in Massachusetts, where he pantomimed the use of a pistol with his hands. "That's right," he said. "Boom. Boom! . . . Boom, he's gone. He's gone!"
After Trump's win, Bergdahl's legal team sought to frame the president's comments as unduly interfering with the accused soldier's "due process right to a fair trial." In the military justice system, unlawful command influence occurs when a senior U.S. official, up to and including the commander in chief, seeks to influence the outcome of legal matters.
A guilty plea could signal an appeal for mercy and consideration of Bergdahl's severe mistreatment while in enemy hands. The move comes after Barack Obama declined to pardon Bergdahl.
Pending the outcome of his trial, Bergdahl has been working at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
The Washington Post's Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.