Phoenix attorney represents SEAL hurt in Bergdahl rescue

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Buddy Rake (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Buddy Rake (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Army sergeant who pleaded guilty Monday to walking out on his military post, and is now facing life behind bars might never have done so if it weren't for a Valley attorney getting a phone call from an insider asking for help two years ago.

Navy veteran Buddy Rake has spent the last 45 years as a trial attorney here in Phoenix, and the last two years fighting for a Navy SEAL whose story we might have never heard about.

“Everything was classified. Without Senior Chief Hatch going to Ft. Bragg and telling his story, we certainly wouldn't be where we are today,” Rake said.

First, let's take you back.

What most people know about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is how he came home in 2014 after five years in captivity after a controversial prisoner swap for five detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

After writing home while deployed about how he was disappointed in our military, then walking away from his combat post in Afghanistan, he was captured by Taliban fighters in 2009.

“It put many, many lives in danger,” Rake said.

And the charges Bergdahl pleaded guilty to are very rare.

Rake says this is only the third time since the Korean War that desertion and misbehavior before the enemy have been used in military prosecution. 

It’s the first-ever conviction.

Rake never thought he’d see a guilty plea.

You see, the Army said they didn't have enough evidence for a court-martial against Bergdahl until Rake brought Navy SEAL Senior Chief James Hatch forward to share the details of his classified rescue mission.

“Senior Chief Hatch was a member of SEAL team 6 and had been in 150 combat missions (some of them, they've written books about) but what he told me, was, his Navy career ended and he was badly injured because of Bowe Bergdahl,” Rake said.

Just seven days after Bergdahl walked out on his post in July 2009, Hatch led the risky rescue operation, knowing they had good intel on Bergdahl's location but also that the odds were stacked against them.

“The conditions that night were poor. But we were told it would be one of the last chances to get him. And even though he was a deserter who was putting us all in a bad spot, we boarded helicopters and went after him,” Hatch wrote in a letter to the Department of Justice and Pentagon to petition them to deny Bergdahl's request for presidential pardon.

“I did not want Sgt. Bergdahl's mother to see her son executed on YouTube, as Daniel Pearl’s mother had,” Hatch said.

Rake said the mission was a prime example of heroics and honor of the American military mantra of leave no man behind regardless of the sacrifices, and consequences.

“It came down to ‘we don't care what he did, he's an American and we don't want anything bad to happen to him, so let's go get him,'” Rake said.

Their two Chinook helicopters came under heavy fire and Hatch and a military K9 got shot as they hustled to help safeguard some children they came across.

“It was apparent that the Taliban A-team was there. RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) were going by the helicopters like flaming beer cans. fifty-caliber machine guns opened up on them, lots of small arms fire,” Rake said.

“My femur was shattered, and much of it punched out the back of my thigh. Lying there, bleeding, I could sense the shrapnel from detonating grenades slinging through the weeds around me. Men rushed to my aid. How they saved me, under fire, is extraordinary,” Hatch explained.

“The injury I sustained that night ended my 20-year career and commenced a year-long journey to save my leg and my mind,” said Hatch.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, who retired with a severe brain injury, was among the others hurt trying to save Bergdahl, who on Monday, pleaded guilty to intentionally leaving his post and putting his comrades in danger. 

Punishment can range up to life behind bars.

Rake says that's not likely given Bergdahl's time in captivity. 

He’s not sure what to expect from the Army judge who will hear testimony from Hatch, Rake and Allen’s wife, among others, before handing down his sentence.

“I expect the court to send a message that you can’t get people shot, get people harmed, you can't end careers, just because you have a personal agenda,” Rake said.

He’s headed back to Ft. Bragg next week, where the sentencing hearing’s slated to start Oct. 23.

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