Military Judge: Fines but No Jail for Deserter Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl will not serve more time behind bars, a military judge has decided eight years after he deserted his platoon in Afghanistan.

His desertion, to which he pleaded guilty, and the subsequent search for him that led to the deaths of six soldiers did not result in the 14-year sentence prosecutors requested in the case.

The judge also ruled that Bergdahl be dishonorably discharged, that his rank be reduced from sergeant to private, and that he be required to pay a $1,000 fine from his salary for the next ten months, CNN reported.

“As everyone knows, he was a captive of the Taliban for nearly five years, and three more years have elapsed while the legal process unfolded,” Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s civilian attorney, said at a press conference after the sentence was handed down. “He has lost nearly a decade of his life.”

But in emotional testimony about the course of the trial, others continue to suffer as a result of Bergdahl’s decision in 2009.

One witness, Capt. John Billings, Bergdahl’s platoon leader, said the platoon searched for the then-private first class for 19 days, going without food or water, according to CNN.

Retired Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer James Hatch testified that he and his dog came under fire while looking for Bergdahl. He was shot in the leg, and his K-9 partner, Remco, was shot in the face and killed, CNN reported.

“I thought I was dead,” said Hatch, who now walks with a heavy limp after enduring 18 surgeries.

Dr. Charles Morgan, a forensic psychiatrist and professor at the University of New Haven and Yale University, testified that Bergdahl suffered from numerous mental illnesses, including schizotypal personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Capt. Nina Banks, a defense attorney, said that “Sgt. Bergdahl has been punished enough.”

“Sgt. Bergdahl paid a bitter price for the choices that he made,” she said.

President Donald Trump was not pleased with the outcome of the trial.

“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” Trump tweeted on Friday:

Bergdahl returned to the United States after President Barack Obama traded five detainees held at Guantánamo Bay in exchange for his release from the Taliban in 2014, Fox reported. By the next year, a House Armed Services Committee report revealed that the “Taliban Five” had returned to “threatening activities” upon their release to Qatar, where the Taliban run a “political office.”

In February, Bergdahl’s defense team claimed he could not have a fair trial because of comments Trump made about Bergdahl on the 2016 campaign trail.


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