By Ed Adamczyk – UPI
U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty last week to desertion and endangering comrades, will be sentenced at what’s expected to be a dramatic hearing at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg Monday.
Bergdahl on Oct. 16 said he had deserted his post while serving in Afghanistan eight years ago. He was ultimately captured by Taliban militants, who held him for five years, and returned to U.S. custody in a prisoner swap in 2014.
Prosecutors have offered no agreement to limit his potential prison sentence, and military Judge Col. Jeffrey R. Nance has wide discretion in sentencing.
Bergdahl’s defense team has argued that comments by President Donald Trump and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gave bias to the case and made it impossible for the Army sergeant to get a fair trial. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has repeated calls for a harsh sentence and has threatened to hold a panel hearing if Bergdahl is not punished.
In 2015, then-Republican presidential candidate Trump said Bergdahl should “face the death penalty for desertion.” Trump has also called him a “traitor” and suggested once that he should be thrown from an airplane for endangering the lives of U.S. troops who went looking for him.
In February, Nance ruled that Trump’s statements were “disturbing and disappointing,” but said they did not amount to unlawful command influence that would prejudice the case.
Last week, Trump said, “I think people have heard my comments in the past.” Friday, a White House statement said any military justice case must be “resolved on its own facts,” without mentioning Bergdahl.