(UPI) — A military judge refused Monday to dismiss the desertion and misbehavior case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl because of comments by Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, but said the remarks would be a mitigating factor in sentencing.
During a hearing at Fort Brag, N.C., Col. Jeffery Nance said he would not grant the defense’s request to dismiss the case.
He said he is “completely unaffected by any comments” and they won’t prevent Bergdahl from having a fair sentencing hearing.
“I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” Nance said.
During the campaign, Trump said Bergdahl was a “dirty rotten traitor” and called for him to be executed or returned to the Taliban. On Oct. 16, the day Bergdahl pleaded guilty, Trump declined to say anything new about the case but added “I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
Last week, Nance temporarily halted the sentencing hearing after seeing a video of those later comments.
In February, Nance ruled that Trump’s statements were “troubling,” but they had not prejudiced the case against the sergeant.
In an interview by ABC News, Bergdahl told a British war filmmaker that he doubted he could get a fair trial because of Trump’s comments.
Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Endangering the troops who were sent to search for him carries a potential life sentence, and the desertion conviction has a sentence of up to five years.
Bergdahl, 31, was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for five years until 2014 when the Obama administration traded five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for him.
After his release, Bergdahl said he made “somewhere between a dozen and 15 escape attempts” during his capture. He was first celebrated after his release but subsequently called a traitor.
On Monday, the wife of a soldier wounded in the search for Bergdahl cried on the stand while describing her husband’s injuries.
“He’s lost me as a wife, essentially, because instead of being his wife, I’m his caregiver,” said Shannon Allen, the wife of Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who was shot in the head searching for Bergdahl. “I mean, we can’t hold hands anymore, unless I pry open his hand and place mine in it.”
Allen uses a wheelchair and a feeding tube, and cannot speak.
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