FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) – The military judge deciding Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment says comments by President Donald Trump haven’t swayed him but he’s worried about public perception of the military justice system.
Sentencing for Bergdahl on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy was set to begin Monday, but the judge instead heard arguments about a last-minute Trump-related motion. The sentencing case is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
The defense filed a last-minute motion saying that comments Trump made after Bergdahl pleaded guilty show that he can’t get a fair sentence with the Republican as commander in chief. Trump harshly criticized Bergdahl on the campaign trail, and recently told reporters that he thinks the public is aware of what he said. Prosecutors argue the most recent comments didn’t reaffirm what he said before.
But the judge, Army Col. Jeffery Nance, said members of the public could have concerns about fairness in light of Trump’s comments.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will appear before a military judge Monday to learn his punishment for endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl could get life in prison after pleading guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Prosecutors made no deal to cap his punishment, so the judge has wide leeway to decide his sentence.
The judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, is expected to weigh factors including Bergdahl’s willingness to admit guilt, his five years as an enemy captive and serious wounds to the service members who searched for him in 2009.
Prosecutors are expected to put on evidence or testimony about soldiers and a Navy SEAL who were seriously wounded by gunfire during separate search missions.