U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl on Friday was spared prison for endangering his comrades in arms when he deserted in Afghanistan in 2009, a sentence swiftly condemned by President Donald Trump, who, while seeking election, had called for his execution. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl on Friday was spared prison for endangering his comrades in arms when he deserted in Afghanistan in 2009, a sentence swiftly condemned by President Donald Trump, who, while seeking election, had called for his execution. "The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military," Trump posted on Twitter from Air Force One as he flew to Asia at the start of a lengthy tour of the region. A military judge recommended that Bergdahl should be dishonorably discharged from the service, demoted to private and forfeit $10,000 in pay. Army Colonel Jeffery Nance took less than a minute to render his decision and made no other comment. Bergdahl was captured eight years ago by the Taliban after walking off his combat outpost. He endured torture and malnutrition while held prisoner by the insurgent group for nearly five years. His case sparked a national debate over whether he was a victim or a villain. The soldier, who had pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, faced a maximum term of life in prison. Late Friday morning, the 31-year-old Hailey, Idaho, native trembled as he waited to hear his punishment in a courtroom in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Defense lawyers, who had urged Nance to show leniency, said after sentencing that Bergdahl was relieved and eager to move on, though they would not discuss his plans. Bergdahl has remained on active duty at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. "This has been a terrible ordeal," said one of his lawyers, Eugene Fidell. Neither Bergdahl nor prosecutors, who had sought a 14-year prison term, commented.