Former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was granted a victory in court last month, when a federal judge ruled partially in favor to throw out the verdict of his court martial.
Senior Judge Reggie Walton, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, partially granted the federal government’s motion to dismiss Bergdahl’s case. However, Walton rejected claims by Bergdahl that comments from former President Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) unduly influence his military proceedings.
On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump described Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor,” while McCain threatened congressional hearings if Bergdahl did not receive punishment, according to a report first published by Military.com.
Attorneys for Bergdahl also argued that the presiding judge over the former soldier’s case failed to disclose his employment plans following his retirement from the military court system. Jeffery Nance, then an Army colonel, did not reveal he had applied for a position as an immigration judge for the Justice Department, only stating he intended to retire.
Lawyers with the Justice Department’s Civil Division argued those details were too little too late, given that Bergdahl’s attorneys waited two years after Nance had been sworn in to cite his failure to disclose his plans.
Bergdahl first made headlines when he deserted his post in Afghanistan in June 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, setting off a massive manhunt involving hundreds of troops. Bergdahl has stated that he walked away from 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment to bring problems in his unit to the attention of senior Army officials.
In 2014, the U.S. government finalized a prisoner swap of five Taliban leaders in exchange for Bergdahl.
He was sentenced in 2017 to a dishonorable discharge, reduction to the rank of private, and forfeiture of $10,000 in pay. Bergdahl filed a petition in civilian court in February 2021, following a vote months earlier by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that upheld his conviction.
Walton is expected to provide more clarification on the reasons behind his decision, the report said.
In a statement, Walton noted that this may not be the final word when it comes to Bergdahl’s legal fate.
“This order is not a final [o]rder subject to appeal,” he wrote.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.