Bowe Bergdahl Dishonorably Discharged, but Avoids Jail Time

By Matthew Grady 11/5/17

Courtesy of Creative Commons

After being found guilty Friday of desertion and endangering fellow troops eight years ago, US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was dishonorably discharged but received no jail time. Bergdahl’s rank will be reduced to Private and he will have to forfeit $10,000 of pay over a ten-month period.

Bergdahl was 23 and a Private First Class when he left his outpost in eastern Afghanistan in 2009. Soon after he went AWOL, he was captured by the Taliban. He was held captive for five years during which he endured many forms of torture. For example he was chained him to a bed for months at a time, forced to live cramped in a small cage, and was often chained on all fours.

Bergdahl was released in May of 2014 in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban. Now 31, Bergdahl pled guilty in mid October this year, and said that he deserted because he was trying to reach the base from which he was originally dispatched. When asked at his trial why he left, Bergdahl said that he felt it was necessary to report a “critical problem in [his] chain of command,” but said nothing further about what the problem was.

The defense argued and the judge agreed that the five years Bergdahl spent as a prisoner were enough. His unstable mental state also played a role in that decision. According to CBS Legal Analyst Rikki Klieman, Bergdahl’s “acceptance of responsibility” and expression of “remorse” in his previous trial may have swayed the judge to eliminate the possibility of a jail sentence.

On Monday, Bergdahl testified for two hours. He recounted his experiences and apologized to those who were hurt while searching for him. “I would like everyone who searched for me to know it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt,” said the sergeant, “and I never expected that to happen.”

The development of this case drew a lot of attention, including that of an irate President Trump. He called Bergdahl him a traitor and said he should either be returned to the Taliban or shot.

“In the good old days, he would have been executed,” Trump said.

On Friday, Trump tweeted that this verdict was a “complete and total disgrace” to America.