Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s brutal five years of captivity by Taliban allies carried significant weight in an Army judge’s decision to spare him prison time for leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009, legal experts said. Criticism of Bergdahl by President Donald Trump also appeared to push the judge toward leniency.
Army Col. Jeffery Nance didn’t explain how he formulated the sentence that also included a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and a fine. But the judge had to consider a complex array of arguments for and against leniency.
Prosecutors asked for a 14-year prison sentence, citing several service members’ serious wounds while searching for Bergdahl. The defense sought to mitigate the punishment with evidence of Bergdahl’s captivity, mental illnesses, contrition and Trump’s harsh criticism.
“It’s really rare for there to be this much mitigation evidence,” said Eric Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. “It’s kind of hard to distinguish which is the one that Nance gave the most weight to. But I think the Taliban conditions were pretty onerous.”