By Cameron Rasmusson
Idaho resident Bowe Bergdahl was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army last week but dodged prison time for deserting his post.
CNN reports that the former soldier, held for five years in captivity, originally faced the possibility of life in prison. His sentence was ultimately far lighter, with his judge, Army Col. Jeffrey Nance, ordering that his rank be reduced from sergeant to private. He must also pay a $1,000 fine.
After Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges that he deserted his Afghanistan outpost, his defense pushed for a lenient sentence, saying that he should never have been in the army in the first place due to mental illness. His lawyers also argued he’d given up enough of his life in Taliban captivity.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, asked for a 14-year sentence, arguing Bergdahl put his fellow soldiers’ lives at risk. Soldiers testified they endured harsh conditions searching for Bergdahl, who wandered off from his post in 2009. Retired Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer James Hatch also said that he and his K-9 partner were attacked while searching for Bergdahl, which resulted in him being shot in the leg and his dog being killed.
President Donald Trump has been outspoken on Bergdahl. He originally criticized former President Barack Obama for the deal that exchanged five Guantanamo Bay prisoners for Bergdahl, tweeting that it created “a VERY BAD precedent” and was “another U.S. loss.”
Trump went on to blast Bergdahl on the 2016 campaign trail, saying he was “a dirty, rotten traitor.”
“In the good old days, he would have been executed,” he added.
Bergdahl’s defense argued that the president’s comments made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial. Nance ruled that while Trump’s comments were troubling, they did not violate due process.
Trump was quick to weigh in following the sentencing.
“The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military,” he tweeted on Friday.