Presiding judge used Trump’s comments on the campaign trail as mitigation evidence
Bowe Bergdahl will serve no jail time for deserting his Afghanistan post in 2009 leaving other soldiers endangered, a military judge concluded Friday.
Bergdahl will instead be dishonorably discharged and required to surrender “pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months,” Politico reported.
Bergdahl appeared tense, grimaced and clenched his jaw. His attorneys put their arms around him and one patted him on the back.
Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and had faced up to life in prison. The judge had wide leeway because Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors to limit his sentence.
Prosecutors had sought stiff punishment because of wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl after he disappeared in 2009.
Bergdahl requested a pardon from President Obama, but that request was denied.
After the request for pardon was denied and Trump took office, defense attorneys argued Bergdahl would not received a fair trial due to comments Trump had made criticizing Bergdahl prior to his election. The defense went so far as to request dismissal of the case. That too was denied.
But, the presiding judge said he would use Trump’s comments as mitigation evidence. The NYT reported:
“I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, said during a hearing at Fort Bragg. The judge is expected to sentence Sergeant Bergdahl in the next few weeks.
The judge rejected a request that he dismiss the case or cap the length of the sentence on the grounds that the president’s comments had precluded a fair hearing. The judge said he had not been influenced by the remarks and that the public’s confidence in the military justice system had not been undermined.
“I’m admitting I made a horrible mistake,” the sergeant said on the witness stand. “It was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen.”
As a candidate, Mr. Trump repeatedly called Sergeant Bergdahl a traitor and suggested that he should be executed or returned to the Taliban. On Oct. 16, Mr. Trump seemed to endorse those earlier sentiments, declining to say anything new about the case but adding, “I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
Trump’s comments on the campaign trail have been used by federal judges to put a halt to his immigration executive orders.
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