Justice Department Appeals Bergdahl Conviction Dismissal

The Justice Department is pushing back against a U.S. District Court judge’s decision to overturn the conviction and sentence of former Army Staff Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl abandoned his post in Afghanistan, setting off a large-scale military search and enduring years of Taliban captivity.

On May 29, the department filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Last July, Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the sentence imposed by the military judge in Bergdahl’s court-martial—which included a rank reduction and a dishonorable discharge—should be dismissed. Walton determined that the military judge had failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest during the trial.

Controversial Figures and Accusations of Unlawful Command Influence

Following Walton’s decision, the Justice Department and Bergdahl‘s legal team filed motions for reconsideration. Bergdahl’s attorneys argued that Walton should reconsider a separate decision that dismissed claims of unlawful command influence by President Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Walton, on May 23, reinforced his previous rulings, asserting that the dismissal of Bergdahl’s conviction was justified because Army judge Col. Jeffery Nance did not disclose his application for a position within the Trump administration, which included referencing his involvement in the Bergdahl case.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump frequently labeled Bergdahl a traitor and suggested extreme punishments, including being shot or thrown from an airplane without a parachute.

Despite these developments, Walton found no reason to revisit his decision on the alleged unlawful command influence by Trump or McCain. The Justice Department, in its appeal, contended that overturning Bergdahl’s court-martial could lead to a “risk of injustice” and necessitate a new court-martial, thereby consuming military resources. Walton countered, citing legal precedents, that these arguments were not pertinent.

The Justice Department further asserted that vacating the court-martial could erode public trust in the judicial system. Walton disagreed, stating that failing to dismiss the sentence, given the clear conflict of interest, would be more damaging to the system. He emphasized that being a judge “requires the most scrupulous conduct,” supporting his stance with references to other cases.

The Justice Department’s appeal of Walton’s initial judgment and denial of reconsideration stands. The department did not comment on the case at the time of publication. Bergdahl’s attorneys had sought Walton’s reconsideration of his ruling on Trump’s alleged influence in light of Nance’s undisclosed conflict of interest. Walton denied this motion, and Bergdahl’s legal team has not indicated whether they will cross-appeal.

The Long Road of Legal Battles

In 2009, Bergdahl, serving with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, deserted his outpost in Afghanistan. His capture by the Taliban prompted a massive search effort, resulting in his five-year captivity. The search’s toll included six deaths of military personnel and one military working dog from injuries sustained during the manhunt, in addition to injuries to numerous other troops. Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban members in 2014. This sparked significant controversy in national politics and within the military. In military circles, he is known as the ultimate Blue Falcon, or Buddy F****r.

Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in 2017, receiving a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to private, and a forfeiture of $10,000 in pay. After losing appeals in the military justice system, he filed a civil suit, claiming an unfair trial due to Nance’s undisclosed job application and alleged unlawful command influence. The circuit court has not yet scheduled the case.

SOFREP wants to know your opinions about the Bergdahl case all these years later. Sound off in the comments below.