UPDATED: Sen. Lindsey Graham says he’s “incredibly disappointed” in the sentence Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received from a military judge.
The South Carolina Republican, who served as an Air Force lawyer for more than 30 years, says Friday he has tremendous respect for the military justice system. But he says “this sentence in my view falls short of the gravity of the offense.”
Bergdahl pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades by walking away from his post in Afghanistan. A search for Bergdahl left several U.S. troops badly wounded. A military judge ruled Bergdahl should serve no prison time but gave him a dishonorable discharge, reduced his rank to private and fined him.
Graham says, “an independent judiciary is the heart and soul of the rule of law but no one is beyond criticism.”
A soldier who was wounded searching for Bowe Bergdahl says the lack of prison time in his sentence is “unacceptable.”
Scores of troops searched for Bergdahl after he walked off his post near the Afghan town of Mest. Prosecutors cited two missions that resulted in serious wounds to two soldiers and a Navy SEAL.
One of the wounded soldiers, Jonathan Morita of California, still doesn’t have full use of his dominant hand after bones were shattered when he was hit by an RPG, which didn’t explode.
Asked by phone about his reaction to Bergdahl’s sentence, he said: “I’ve had had better days.”
He added: “The dishonorable discharge means he can’t receive any of these services like I can. He’ll pay the fine like people get fined for illegal fishing. Ok, whoop-de-doo.”
Referring to the lack of prison time, he said: “That’s the one that’s completely unacceptable. It should have maybe not been the life sentence, but it should have been something.”
Bowe Bergdahl’s defense lawyer has told reporters after sentencing that his client “has looked forward to today for a long time.”
Eugene Fidell added, “Sgt. Bergdahl is grateful to everyone who searched for him in 2009, especially those who heroically sustained injuries.”
Fidell told reporters that he looks forward to the appeals court reviewing Trump’s statements as a candidate, which he appeared to reaffirm on the day Bergdahl pleaded guilty Oct. 16.
Addressing reporters before Trump tweeted about the sentence, Fidell said Trump had already caused one of the “most preposterous” legal situations in American history.
He said he looks forward to the appeal, adding: “We think there’s an extremely strong basis for dismissal of the case.”
President Donald Trump says a judge’s ruling that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will serve no prison time is a “complete and total disgrace.”
The president’s comment on Twitter came Friday, less than an hour after the White House declined to comment on the sentence.
Bergdahl is the Army sergeant who walked off his post in Afghanistan and triggered a search that wounded some of his comrades.
He was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, until President Barack Obama traded Taliban prisoners to bring him back.
A military judge ruled Friday that he should not serve prison time.
Trump issued his tweet from Air Force One on Friday as he embarked on the first leg of his trip to Hawaii and Asia.
The president has long been a critic of Bergdahl. During the presidential campaign, Trump called him a traitor who deserved serious punishment.
A military judge has found that Bowe Bergdahl should serve no prison time for endangering his comrades by walking off his Afghanistan post.
The judge also gave Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge, reduced his rank to private and said he must forfeit pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months. The judge made no other comments.
Bergdahl appeared tense, grimaced and clenched his jaw. His attorneys put their arms around him and one patted him on the back.
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) November 3, 2017
Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy and had faced up to life in prison. The judge had wide leeway because Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors to limit his sentence.
Prosecutors had sought stiff punishment because of wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl after he disappeared in 2009. He was held captive by Taliban allies for five years.
The defense sought to counter that evidence with testimony about Bergdahl’s suffering during five years as a captive of Taliban allies, his contributions to military intelligence and survival instruction and his mental health problems.
The White House says it has no comment on the sentence given to Bowe Bergdahl for leaving his post in Afghanistan.
Instead, White House officials referred back to a previous statement from several weeks ago.
The statement said President Donald Trump “expects all military personnel who are involved in any way in the military justice process to exercise their independent professional judgment, consistent with applicable laws and regulations.”
A military judge in North Carolina ruled Friday that Bergdahl should serve no prison time for endangering his comrades by walking off his Afghanistan post. The judge also gave Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge, reduced his rank to private and said he must forfeit pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months.
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