US Army's Bergdahl spared prison time for deserting

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg N.C. Former Navy SEAL James Hatch who testified this week at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing on charges he endangered comrades by leaving his

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrives for a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg N.C. Former Navy SEAL James Hatch who testified this week at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing on charges he endangered comrades by leaving his

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. He's been demoted and will get a dishonorable discharge.

Sgt Bergdahl was held captive by the Taliban for five years after he left his Afghan post in 2009, sparking a massive manhunt in the region.

He originally faced the possibility of life in prison, but the prosecution asked the judge for a 14-year sentence.

Bergdahl's lawyers tried several times to have the charges against him thrown out, saying comments by Trump and Senator John McCain in favor of a heavy prison sentence constituted "unlawful command influence" - when senior officials with power over the military exert potentially prejudicial influence over the court.

The military court heard testimony from three current and former soldiers who were wounded while searching for Bergdahl. He said the defence team sees "an extremely strong basis for dismissal of the case".

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. The judge had wide leeway in deciding the sentence because Bergdahl made no deal with prosecutors to limit his punishment.

Prosecutors had sought stiff punishment because of wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl after he disappeared in 2009. Their argument for leniency also cited harsh campaign-trail criticism by Donald Trump and Bergdahl's mental disorders.

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He was captured shortly afterwards by the Taliban and turned over to the notorious Haqqani group, which held him for five years in nearby Pakistan.

The president's comment on Twitter came Friday, less than an hour after the White House declined to comment on the military sentence given to Bergdahl.

Capt. Nina Banks, a defense attorney, said it wouldn't be justice to rescue Bergdahl from the Taliban "only to place him in a cell" now.

Prosecutors said the soldier should spend 14 years behind bars for endangering USA troops in Afghanistan.

During his time in captivity, Bergdahl said he was tortured, beaten and spent months chained to a bed or locked in a cage while his health deteriorated.

But his defenders argued that he has already suffered from five years of brutal treatment by the Taliban, before being released in a prisoner exchange for five Taliban fighters in 2014. He has been working a desk job at a military installation in San Antonio and was not under any pretrial restrictions.

While on the campaign trail past year, current US President Donald Trump called Bergdahl "a no-good traitor who should have been executed".

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