A U.S. military judge has given Bowe Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge from the Army but no prison time. Bergdahl, who was released from Taliban captivity in 2014, had pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
On Nov. 3, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance announced his sentence for Bergdahl during a hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Bergdahl would receive a dishonorable discharge, forfeit $1,000 each month for 10 months, and have his rank reduced from sergeant to private. Prosecutors had sought a 14-year prison term, The Associated Press reports.
President Donald Trump blasted the decision on social media.
"The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military," Trump tweeted.
In 2009, Bergdahl left his outpost in Afghanistan and was swiftly captured by the Taliban. He was kept in captivity and tortured for five years. Several U.S. military service members sustained serious injuries and a K-9 dog was killed during two missions to retrieve Bergdahl. Among the wounded was Sgt. First Class Mark Allen, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and is now unable to speak or care for himself.
In May 2014, the Obama administration secured Bergdahl's return to the U.S. by releasing five Guantanamo Bay detainees. The decision was controversial, with critics arguing that Bergdahl was a traitor.
On Oct. 16, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, crimes that could have resulted in a lifetime prison sentence.
On Oct. 30, Bergdahl was visibly emotional when he apologized to the soldiers who had sustained injuries to retrieve him from captivity.
"My words can't take away what people have been through," Bergdahl said, according to CNN. "I am admitting I made a horrible mistake."
Bergdahl added: "I was trying to help and knowing it didn't breaks my heart. It was never my intention for anyone to be hurt."
Bergdahl's defense lawyer, Capt. Nina Banks, argued before the court that the former captive had already suffered during his five years as a prisoner. She also noted that Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizophrenic disorder and that he was unable to understand the ramifications of his decision when he left his outpost, according to NPR.
"Justice is not rescuing Sgt. Bergdahl from his Taliban captors, in the cage where he was for years, only to place him in a cell," Banks said.
Nance did not explain his decision not to give Bergdahl prison time, but had previously signaled that public comments made by Trump would impact his decision.
"I will consider the president's comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence," Nance said on Oct. 30, according to The New York Times.
In October 2015, Trump asserted during a campaign rally that Bergdahl should be executed for deserting his post.
"We're tired of Sgt. Bergdahl, who's a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed ... 30 years ago, he would have been shot," Trump said.
Bergdahl's lawyers asserted in court that Trump's public comments had damaged their client's ability to receive a fair trial. Following the sentencing, defense lawyer Eugene Fidell told reporters that Trump "made really extraordinary reprehensible comments targeted directly at our client."
Prosecutors declined to comment on Bergdahl's sentencing.
Sources: The Associated Press, The Associated Press via Business Insider, CNN, The New York Times, NPR / Featured Image: Bloomsberries/Flickr / Embedded Images: Fish Cop/Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons