"We need to know so we can tell Sgt. Bergdahl what the consequences are," Fidell told the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance.

Nance responded that Bergdahl can choose to plead guilty to the lesser offense of unauthorized absence, or AWOL, but that prosecutors could continue pursuing the more serious desertion charge if they weren't satisfied. The judge said he would rule later on the defense's arguments about the duration of Bergdahl's absence.