SGT Bowe Bergdahl was sentenced on Friday after lengthy military court proceedings have come to a close. He will serve no time in prison, but has been dishonorably discharged. The prosecution was trying to swing a 14 year sentence, a downgrade from the life sentence that was also a possibility. Bergdahl’s attorneys got what they asked for–a dishonorable discharge and the freedom to leave without time behind bars. He will also be demoted and forced to forfeit $1,000 pay each month for under a year.
Bergdahl had pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The desertion charge alone would earn him five years in prison, but the misbehavior before the enemy was what could have put him behind bars for life. According to UCMJ, misbehavior before the enemy is one of the 14 crimes that can carry the death penalty, and desertion can be added to that list if it happens during a time of war.
Court proceedings had come to a pause as Col. Jeffery R. Nance, the military court judge, was concerned about the implications of some of President Trump’s remarks regarding Bergdahl. Though these comments were only referred to recently, they implied statements made as the President was running for office–calling Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor” and that he would toss him out of a plane in an effort to “give him back.” Though it might just seem like the President was simply expressing his opinions here, it falls under the “unlawful command influence” in military law. President Trump is Col. Nance’s boss, and such power and publicly taking sides can greatly influence the case, instead of the facts alone. Because of this, Bergdahl’s lawyers had even tried to get his case dismissed, claiming it would be impossible for the sergeant to receive a fair trial.
Nevertheless, sentencing has moved forward and the former Sgt. Bergdahl will not face life in prison. Having spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban, this is no doubt significant news for Bergdahl as it is finally set in stone.
The sentencing comes after a long road of controversy. Service members had come forward who were wounded in action looking for him, and his motives for leaving are still not entirely known. He had asked his NCOs what would happen if his night vision or weapon would go missing, which indicates that he was planning on leaving for a while. Years later, the Obama administration would trade five Guantanamo inmates for the life of Bergdahl.
Featured image courtesy of AP Images.