Military Law

Bowe Bergdahl won't serve prison time for deserting post before capture by Taliban

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Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl/United States Army via Wikimedia Commons.

Updated: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl won’t serve any time in prison for the desertion that led to his capture by the Taliban in 2009 and search efforts in which some service members were wounded.

A military judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance, sentenced Bergdahl to a dishonorable discharge in a short hearing on Friday, report the New York Times and the Washington Post. Col. Nance also reduced Bergdahl’s rank to private and ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine.

Bergdahl pleaded guilty on Oct. 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for leaving his Army base in Afghanistan eight years ago. The misbehavior charge had carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The prosecutor had sought a 14-year sentence.

On Monday, Col. Nance said he would consider critical comments by President Donald Trump as weighing in favor of a lighter sentence.

During the presidential campaign, Trump called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.” When Bergdahl pleaded guilty, Trump said he couldn’t comment, but added, “I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

The defense argued that Trump’s remarks had amounted to unlawful command influence.

Later on Friday, Trump said in a tweet that the “decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

Bergdahl was tortured while in captivity before his release in 2014 as part of a prisoner exchange. Army investigators said he left his post in a plan to report what he perceived to be problems in his unit. The defense said Bergdahl’s decision was affected by an undiagnosed personality disorder.

One of the service members who participated in an attempt to rescue Bergdahl, Mark Allen, was shot in the head and had part of his brain removed during surgery. He can no longer speak or walk. In another rescue mission, Senior Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Hatch was wounded in the leg and underwent 18 surgical procedures.

Adds tweet from President Trump at 12:15 p.m.

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