Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Basically Gets Time Served in Taliban Prison
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Army base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years, received no prison time for desertion or endangering troops, but was ordered by a military judge on Friday to be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
The sentencing took only minutes in a case where prosecutors had sought 14 years in a military prison.
The military judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, also reduced Sergeant Bergdahl’s rank to private and required him to forfeit $1,000 a month of his pay for 10 months.
President Trump, who has labeled Sergeant Bergdahl a “dirty rotten traitor,” called Friday’s sentence “a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”
Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.
12:54 PM – Nov 3, 2017
32,594 32,594 Replies 24,883 24,883 Retweets 85,640 85,640 likes
Colonel Nance did not explain his reasoning for the sentence, which will be reviewed by Gen. Robert B. Abrams, who convened the court-martial and has the power to lessen the punishment. If the final sentence still includes a punitive discharge, it will automatically be reviewed by the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
The case has been dogged by politics and controversy from beginning to end.
After trading Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees in 2014, the Obama administration embraced him, with the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, even saying he had served with “honor and distinction.” But the prisoner swap, and the sergeant’s portrayal, angered many Republicans. Senator John McCain even threatened to hold a hearing if the sergeant was not punished.
Last year, Mr. Trump made denunciations of Sergeant Bergdahl a staple of his campaign speeches, repeatedly calling for him to be executed.
Ironically, Mr. Trump’s comments may have contributed to the decision not to sentence him to prison. After Mr. Trump seemed last month to endorse his harsh criticism from the campaign trail, Colonel Nance ruled that he would consider the comments as mitigating evidence at sentencing.
With the sentence still facing review by General Abrams and military appellate judges, Mr. Trump’s post-verdict comments on Twitter seemed to bolster efforts by the defense to have the sentence thrown out on appeal, some military law experts said, on the grounds that the president had unlawfully influenced the case.
“Trump just exponentially increased Bergdahl’s chances of getting this whole case tossed on appeal,” said Rachel VanLandingham, a professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and a retired Air Force lawyer.
The tweet could be interpreted as an effort to pressure officers who still have some control over the sergeant’s fate not to reconsider his sentence, military law experts said.
Sergeant Bergdahl’s chief defense lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, called the sentence “a tremendous relief” and said his client was still absorbing it.
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