By Greg Lacour
FORT BRAGG, N.C., Oct 30 (Reuters) – The military judge hearing U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion case said on Monday he will not dismiss the charges due to comments by President Donald Trump that the defense argued unfairly influenced the proceedings.
During presidential campaign last year, Republican Trump called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.” The defense said the president’s recent remarks about the case showed his opinion of Bergdahl has not changed.
Army Colonel Jeffery Nance ruled in court at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, where Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is underway, that no reasonable person would harbor doubt about the integrity of the proceedings due to Trump’s comments.
“I am uninfluenced by the president’s comments,” said Nance, later adding, “However, I will consider the president’s comments as mitigating factors.”
Bergdahl faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a dishonorable discharge after pleading guilty earlier this month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Prosecutors are expected to conclude their case on Monday.
In testimony last week that was sometimes emotional, U.S. service members described the risks and hardships they faced after Bergdahl walked off his combat outpost in Afghanistan in June 2009.
The 31-year-old Idaho native was captured by the Taliban and spent the next five years in captivity suffering torture, abuse and neglect. Bergdahl told Nance at his Oct. 16 plea hearing that he never intended to put anyone at risk. (Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jeffrey Benkoe)