Making Desertion Charges Disappear

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Q: Are Donald Trump’s alleged “dirty rotten traitor” and other disparaging remarks grounds for dismissal of desertion charges against U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl?

Court-martial defense attorneys representing U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in his trial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy alleged that Donald Trump’s repeated disparaging comments on the campaign trail referring to Bergdahl as a “dirty rotten traitor” who “should be executed” constituted “unlawful command influence” and make it impossible for the sergeant to receive a fair trial. The legal concept of unlawful command influence arises where “a person of command authority exerts pressure or appears to place pressure on military judicial proceedings”.

A military judge disagreed with the defense counsel, determining that the “troubling” remarks were just “inflammatory campaign rhetoric” and noting that since Donald Trump took office in January he hadn’t commented publicly on Bergdahl.

Bergdahl’s lawyers have appealed the military judge’s ruling on this controversial military policy issue to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Trial is scheduled to begin in August. Bergdahl’s attorneys are requesting the desertion case be dropped or that he face no punishment.

In the event Bergdahl  –who reportedly walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured and held hostage for five years by Taliban forces until released in a prisoner exchange –is found guilty of misbehavior before the enemy he may be sentenced up to life in prison.

The court-martial defense of desertion charges is complex and each case is unique in its challenges. It is essential that soldiers facing desertion charges contact civilian military attorneys experienced in making the most compelling military court arguments in an effort to minimize the impact of charges. With your life, freedom, and future on the line, relying on court-appointed inexperienced military defense counsel is risky. Soldiers in high profile cases are not only being tried in military court, but also in the court of public opinion, so retaining an attorney skilled in court-martial defense as well as public relations is wise.

If you face desertion charges, or you are currently away from the military unit, contact the Law Firm of Elkus, Sisson, and Rosenstein, PC today at 719-247-3111 for a free consultation. From our offices in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado, we defend soldiers of all ranks, in all branches of the Armed Forces whether stationed at home or abroad.


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