The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has shot down an effort by convicted deserter and former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to have his conviction overturned based on comments made about him by President Donald Trump.
“Appellant asks this Court to dismiss with prejudice the charges and specifications against him, or in the alternative, to grant other meaningful relief such as approving a sentence of no punishment. We decline to do so,” Judge Kevin A. Ohlson wrote.
In his ruling, Ohlson noted that “it is essential to note that the conduct Appellant engaged in, and the charges to which he pleaded guilty, were very serious offenses for which either a life sentence or the death penalty were authorized punishments.”
Ohlson wrote that “as a direct and foreseeable consequence of Appellant’s misconduct, other members of the armed forces were injured — some severely — while seeking to find and rescue Appellant.”
“In light of these facts, it is wholly unrealistic to believe there was any scenario where: (1) upon his return to the United States, Appellant would not have been held accountable at a general court-martial for his offenses (to which he voluntarily pleaded guilty); and (2) Appellant would not have received the dishonorable discharge he himself subsequently requested.”
“Thus, simply stated, it was the totality of the circumstances surrounding Appellant’s misconduct rather than any outside influences that foreordained the Army’s handling and disposition of this case. Therefore, an objective, disinterested observer would not harbor any significant doubts about the ultimate fairness of these court-martial proceedings.
“Accordingly, we hold that there was no appearance of unlawful command influence in this case, and we affirm the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals,” Ohlson ruled.
Bergdahl, who has cited unlawful command influence as the legal basis for having his sentence thrown out, retains the right to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Even that sentence was denounced at the time by Trump.
“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” he tweeted then.
The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2017
Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban. In a controversial swap orchestrated by former President Barack Obama in 2014, he was freed.
In 2015, Trump lambasted Bergdahl during a Las Vegas campaign appearance that was typical of his campaign-era comments on Bergdahl.
“We’re tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed,” Trump said then, according to The Associated Press.
“Thirty years ago,” he said, “he would have been shot.”
Bergdahl also said comments from the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona impacted his trial.
McCain had vowed to hold a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing if Bergdahl was not punished, according to The New York Times.
Bergdahl had lost one appeal last July, when the Army Court of Criminal Appeals upheld his plea and sentence, according to Military Times.
The court ruled that while comments from Trump might have been out of line, the ruling in Bergdahl’s case was “fair and unprejudiced.”
After Bergdahl left his unit, comrades who searched for him were wounded.
Among them was Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who was shot. The injury left him paralyzed until his death last October.
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