Bowe Bergdahl cries and apologizes while taking stand in sentencing hearing

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — In an unexpected move, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl took the stand in his sentencing hearing Monday, breaking down several times and apologizing to those who were wounded while searching for him after he abandoned his post in Afghanistan.

"I was trying to do something good and it turned bad," Bergdahl said, reading from a statement at the beginning of his testimony. "My words alone can't relieve the pain ... I think about what I did every day for the last eight years."

Aside from when Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, it was the first time the courtroom had heard from him. His appearance came as a surprise to courthouse reporters, who were told another witness would be testifying Monday afternoon.

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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his desertion case
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Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his desertion case
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl leaves the courthouse after the first day of sentencing proceedings in his court martial was adjourned at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Eugene Fidell (R), U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's civilian defense attorney, arrives with Bergdahl's judge advocate Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt (L) at the courthouse for the start of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl watches as one of his captors displays his identity tag to the camera at an unknown location in Afghanistan, July 19, 2009. The U.S. military denounced on Sunday the release of the video showing a soldier captured in Afghanistan, describing the images as Taliban propaganda that violated international law. REUTERS/via Reuters TV (AFGHANISTAN MILITARY CONFLICT)
FT. BRAGG, NC - JULY 7: U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie 'Bowe' Bergdahl (right), 30 of Hailey, Idaho, leaves the Ft. Bragg military courthouse during a recess in a pretrial military hearing on July 7, 2016 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Army. U.S. Army/Handout via Reuters THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: Yellow ribbons line Main Street as the hometown of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl awaits his homecoming on June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: President Barack Obama makes a statement about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as his parents, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) listen May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)
Undated image from video footage taken from a Taliban-affiliated website shows a man who says he is Private First Class Bowe R. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan in late June. The Afghan Taliban said on December 25, 2009 that they had issued a new video tape of Bergdahl and added that in it he asks his government to take part in a prisoner exchange deal. REUTERS via Reuters TV (CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
An undated family handout of U.S. Army private Bowe Bergdahl, 23, who is being held captive and detained by Taliban forces in Afghanistan, released to Reuters on July 22, 2009. Afghanistan's Taliban called on Americans to put pressure on their government over the capture of Bergdahl, saying in an internet message released over the weekend that Washington could not win the war despite its modern weaponry. REUTERS/Family Handout (UNITED STATES MILITARY HEADSHOT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: (From left) Colonel Bradley Poppen, Ph.D., Major General Joseph P. DiSalvo, and Colonel Ronald N. Wool deliver a press conference at the Fort Sam Houston Golf Course July 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. They are reporting on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, his return to the United States, and reintegration at Brooke Army Medical Center after being a prison of war under Taliban captivity. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
FT. BRAGG, NC - JULY 7: U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie 'Bowe' Bergdahl, 30 of Hailey, Idaho, arrives at the Ft. Bragg military courthouse with his legal counsel for a pretrial military hearing on July 7, 2016 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and endangering troops stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
A billboard calling for the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held for nearly five years by the Taliban after being captured in Afghanistan, is shown in this picture taken near Spokane, Washington on February 25, 2014. Bergdahl has been released and is now in U.S. custody, President Barack Obama said on May 31, 2014. Picture taken on February 25, 2014. REUTERS/Jeff T. Green (UNITED STATES - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) is escorted as he arrives at the courthouse for the start of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (R) is escorted into the courthouse for the start of sentencing proceedings in his court martial at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S., October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
FORT BRAGG, NC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bowdrie 'Bowe' Bergdahl, 29 of Hailey, Idaho, leaves the Ft. Bragg military courthouse for a lunch recess after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on October 16, 2017 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl could face life in prison stemming from his decision to leave his outpost in 2009, which landed him five years in Taliban captivity. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
FT. BRAGG, NC - DECEMBER 22: Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (2nd R) of Hailey, Idaho, leaves a military courthouse with his attorney Lt. Col. Franklin Rosenblatt (L) 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)
BOISE, ID - JUNE 01: Bob Bergdahl speaks about the release of his son Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl during a press conference at Gouen Field national guard training facility on June 1, 2014 in Boise, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: President Barack Obama walks with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani Bergdahl (L) and Bob Bergdahl (R) back to the Oval Office after making a statement regarding the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from captivity May 31, 2014 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held captive by militants for almost five years during the war in Afghanistan. (Photo by J.H. Owen-Pool/Getty Images)
FT. BRAGG, NC - DECEMBER 22: Military personnel leave the Ft. Bragg Courthouse after the arraignment of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on December 22, 2015 in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl faces 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. Bergdahl now faces a maximum five-year penalty if ultimately convicted by a military jury of desertion, as well as potential life imprisonment on the more serious charge of misbehavior before the enemy. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
BOISE, ID - JUNE 01: Bob Bergdahl listens as his wife Jani reads a message to their son Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl during a press conference at Gouen Field national guard training facility on June 1, 2014 in Boise, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl who was captured in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province, Afghanistan was released yesterday after a swap for Taliban prisoners. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in the window of the Hailey Paint and Supply store on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 01: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits outside the Power House restaurant on Main Street June 1, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. Yesterday he was released after a swap for 5 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay was arranged. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 10: Senate Armed Services Committee Member U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) talks with reporters after being briefed by military officals about the prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at the U.S. Capitol June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The trade of Bergdahl for five senior Taliban officials has angered some members of Congress because they were not informed of the swap beforehand. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 02: A poster showing support for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and signed by guests is taped to the wall inside Zaney's coffee shop where Bergdahl worked as a teenager on June 2, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl was released from captivity on May 31 after being captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. He was released after a deal was worked out to swap his freedom for the freedom of 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 02: The home of Bob and Jani Bergdahl is tucked into the base of a hill about 5 miles outside of town on June 2, 2014 near Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl's family and residents in the small town of Hailey are waiting for the return of Sgt. Bergdahl who was released from captivity on May 31. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. He was released after a deal was worked out to swap his freedom for the freedom of 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HAILEY, ID - JUNE 02: The home of Bob and Jani Bergdahl is tucked into the base of a hill about 5 miles outside of town on June 2, 2014 near Hailey, Idaho. Sgt. Bergdahl's family and residents in the small town of Hailey are waiting for the return of Sgt. Bergdahl who was released from captivity on May 31. Bergdahl was captured by Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with U.S. Armys 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province. He was released after a deal was worked out to swap his freedom for the freedom of 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was considered the only U.S. prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 10: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,speaks with reporters as he leaves the Senate Armed Services Committee briefing in the Capitol on the Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: (L-R) Andy Andrews, father of deceased U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, retired Army Spc. Cody Full, who served with Sgt. Bergdahl in Blackfoot Company, Second Platoon, and Mike Waltz, who commanded a Special Forces Company in Eastern Afghanistan in 2009, testify about the Bergdahl prisoner swap during a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, June 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee heard testimony on Implications for U.S. National Security due to the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - SEPTEMBER 17: U.S. Army MSG Frank Minnie announces the ground rules to the media covering the Article 32 preliminary hearing in the Bowe Bergdahl desertion case at Fort Sam Houston on September 17, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. The hearing will decide if Bergdahl will face a military trial for leaving his post in Afghanistan. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 13: A sign for Brooke Army Medical Center is seen on June 13, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl returned to the United States and is being cared for at Brooke Army Medical Center after being a prisoner of war for five years in Afghanistan. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
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Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and then was captured by the Taliban. On Monday, he detailed several unsuccessful escape attempts. He started crying multiple times, at one point shaking his head, too overcome with emotion to answer a question about his captivity from the defense.

Bergdahl's testimony came on a busy day in court, which began with the military judge who will be deciding his sentencing denying a motion by defense attorneys to dismiss the case based on comments made by President Donald Trump.

The court also heard heart-wrenching testimony from the wife of a soldier seriously injured in the search for Bergdahl.

"He’s lost me as a wife, essentially, because instead of being his wife, I’m his caregiver," said Shannon Allen, the wife of Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who was shot in the head. "I mean, we can’t hold hands anymore, unless I pry open his hand and place mine in it."

A contrite Bergdahl addressed those who were injured looking for him, ended his opening statement with: "Thank you for your sacrifice."

Bergdahl was not cross-examined by the prosecution, only questioned by the defense. His testimony came hours after the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, said he would not grant the defense's request to dismiss the case.

Nance said Monday that Trump's criticism has not prevented Bergdahl from having a fair sentencing hearing, and said he is "completely unaffected by any comments" about Bergdahl.

However, he added that he will consider Trump's comments as a mitigating factor when he hands down Bergdahl's sentence.

Bergdahl faces life in prison. He was released in 2014 in a prisoner swap arranged by President Barack Obama. The deal was criticized by Trump and other Republicans.

While running for president, Trump disparaged Bergdahl, 31, as a "dirty rotten traitor" and called for him to be executed by firing squad or tossed out of a plane without a parachute.

Nance temporarily halted the sentencing hearing after seeing a video of Trump on Oct. 16 referring to his campaign trail comments in which he said he couldn't talk about Bergdahl, but added, "But I think people have heard my comments in the past."

Related: Bergdahl Hearing Focuses on Soldiers Who Were Hurt Looking for Him

The prosecution hopes to prove that Bergdahl's desertion endangered those who went looking for him and presented the wife and doctor of Mark Allen, the soldier shot in the head, earlier Monday.

Allen uses a wheelchair and a feeding tube and cannot speak. Shannon Allen told the court that Mark was "always happy-go-lucky" before he got shot and was an active dad to their son, Cody, and daughter, Journey. She said he coached baseball and said they planned on having more children.

Now, Shannon said, "his involvement is much more passive."

"He’s present, but he’s not able to have any real physical interaction," she said.

While Allen can make eye contact, laugh, smile, and cry, he's unable to express his needs in any way, she continued, adding that she has to guess if he's experiencing a health problem and they often end up in the emergency room.

He can't be left alone, she told the court: "It's like leaving an infant."

Dr. Rafael S. Mascarinas III, the attending physician at a VA rehab center in Tampa Bay, Florida where Allen stayed from August 2009 through December 2011, testified that Allen has had multiple surgeries to remove parts of his brain and has had strokes in different parts of his brain, Mascarinas said.

Shauna Williams reported from Fort Bragg, and Elizabeth Chuck from New York. 

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