Judge vacates conviction of Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl

by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News July 26, 2023

The military conviction of U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl was vacated by a federal judge on Tuesday.

Bowe Bergdahl

Bergdahl had pleaded guilty to desertion after he left his post and was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009. Prosecutors at his court-martial sought 14 years in prison, but he was given no time after he submitted evidence of the torture he suffered while in Taliban custody. Bergdahl’s rank was reduced from sergeant to private, he was dishonorably discharged, and ordered to forfeit $10,000 in pay.

In his ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said that military judge Jeffrey Nance, who presided over Bergdahl’s court-martial, failed to disclose that he had applied to the executive branch for a job as an immigration judge, creating a potential conflict of interest.

Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in 2009 after the then-23-year-old left his post in Afghanistan. He claimed that he had been trying to get outside his post so he could report what he saw as poor leadership within his unit, but he was abducted by the Taliban and held captive for nearly five years.

Several U.S. servicemembers were wounded while searching for Bergdahl. One of them, Army National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Allen, was shot in the head. He died 10 years later.

In 2014, Bergdahl was returned to the U.S. in a prisoner swap for five Taliban leaders who were being held at Guantanamo Bay.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had strongly criticized Bergdahl, whose lawyers argued that Trump’s comments placed undue command influence on Nance.

Walton rejected the specific argument surrounding undue command influence, but he said a reasonable person could question the judge’s impartiality under the circumstances.

Bergdahl’s conviction and sentence had been narrowly upheld by military appeals courts before his lawyers took the case to U.S. District Court, resulting in Tuesday’s ruling.

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