“Dirty Rotten Traitor” Gets No Confinement

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Q: Did “undue command influence” factor in to the Bergdahl case?

In the world of court-martial defense work, the case against Army Sgt. Beau Bergdahl – – is likely the most famous in recent history. 

The desertion and AWOL case caught the nation’s collective eye during the 2016 presidential campaign, if not earlier. 

In the high-profile case, the Army Sergeant reportedly pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy with respect to abandoning his post in Afghanistan in 2009. He was promptly captured and held in Taliban captivity under allegedly deplorable conditions until his release in a prisoner exchange arranged under former President Obama in 2014.

During the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump referred to Sgt. Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor” who “should have been executed”. Other reportedly disparaging and inflammatory comments including recent remarks that seemingly direct people back to his earlier opinions have led his defense attorneys to argue those comments constitute “undue command influence” coming from the nation’s Commander-in-Chief and are grounds for dismissal.

As it turns out, Bergdahl did not receive the possible lifetime in prison he faced or even the 14 years of confinement the prosecution hoped for.  In fact, he didn’t even receive a day of confinement when he was reportedly sentenced by a military judge to a rank reduction to private, a forfeiture of pay of $1,000 per month for 10 months, and a dishonorable discharge. 

A court-martial appeal is forthcoming as “dishonorable discharges automatically trigger an appeal in military court” in an attempt to further reduce the punishment or have the charges dismissed entirely.

Some wonder whether Trump’s disparaging comments — described by defense counsel as causing “one of the most preposterous legal minefields in American history”–might in some way have unintentionally had the opposite effect in the lenient sentencing outcome. Apparently, “his time spent in Taliban captivity, criticism from Trump on the campaign trail, and his mental state” were reasons his attorneys sought leniency, while the prosecution demonstrated the “life-altering” injuries fellow soldiers suffered on missions to find him.

If you are, or believe you might be facing a military court-martial, or need assistance with a court-martial appeal, the skilled civilian military defense attorneys at Elkus, Sisson, and Rosenstein, P.C. will fight for your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

From our offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, we have a proven track record of defending and appealing criminal cases in any branch of the military– anywhere in the world. 

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