In a surprising turn of events, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl took the stand during his sentencing hearing yesterday. Bergdahl pleaded guilty October 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and faces up to life in prison. Bergdahl’s testimony, which was unsworn and therefore unable to be cross-examined by the prosecution, revealed the physical and psychological abuse he faced in captivity. He admitted wrongdoing in his actions and apologized for the pain and suffering caused by his actions.
As Liberty Nation previously reported, Bergdahl’s defense submitted a motion to dismiss on the grounds of Unlawful Command Influence on the part of President Donald Trump. The defense team argued that President Trump’s apparent reaffirmation of statements made as a candidate cast an unmistakable shadow on the proceedings and their client would be unable to receive a fair trial.
Colonel Jeffrey Nance, the presiding judge of Bergdahl’s case, denied the motion yesterday, stating that he intended to retire at his current rank and would not be swayed by a desire to placate superiors. COL Nance did comment, however, on the President’s statements:
“The plain meaning of the president’s words to any reasonable hearer could be that in spite of knowing that he should not comment on the pending sentencing in this case, he wanted to make sure that everyone remembered what he really thinks should happen to the accused.”
While the Colonel is not dismissing the case, and the court has not been directly affected, he implied that mitigating factors, such as President Trump’s comments and Bergdahl’s captivity, may affect the overall sentence.
Details of Captivity
Bergdahl’s sentencing relies heavily on a series of potentially mitigating factors: one such being his captivity. Bergdahl spent years as a Taliban prisoner, and his testimony highlighted some of that experience:
“The worst was the constant, just the constant deterioration of everything. The constant pain from my body falling apart. The constant screams from my mind. It was the years of waiting to see whether or not the next time someone opens the door if that would be the person coming to execute you.”
Bergdahl gave details of his escape attempts, his subsequent recapture and beatings, and the horrific conditions in which he was kept. He expressed remorse for the suffering his actions caused. “I would like everyone who searched for me to know it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen,” he said. “My words alone can’t take away their pain.”
As Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors, his fate lies entirely in the hands of Colonel Jeffrey Nance. Nance may determine that Bergdahl’s time in captivity is punishment enough, or he may prescribe a sentence upwards of life in prison. Regardless of his sentence, Bergdahl will live with the psychological trauma of his captivity and the burden of knowing that his actions, foolish and misguided, have irrevocably altered the lives of his brothers in arms.
That knowledge, that guilt, and that ever-present gnawing at the edges of his mind will follow him for the rest of his days. Whether that is punishment enough is up to COL Nance to decide.