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DOJ asks judge to deny Bergdahl’s attempt to throw out conviction for deserting Army

Bowe Bergdahl (U.S. Army/Released)
August 20, 2021

The Department of Justice filed a motion this month to dismiss a petition filed by Bowe Bergdahl in which he sought to have his military conviction and sentence overturned.

Bergdahl, a former U.S. Army sergeant, has filed multiple appeals in an effort to overturn his conviction after he pled guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy when he fell captive to the Taliban in June 2009 after leaving his outpost in eastern Afghanistan. Bergdahl most recently filed an appeal in February, alleging former President Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) exerted undue influence over his case.

On August 2, the Justice Department’s civil division filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Senior Judge Reggie Walton to throw out Bergdahl’s appeal.

In their motion, the DOJ noted prior claims Bergdahl had raised that undue influence from Trump had undermined his right to a fair trial.

“Mr. Bergdahl’s claims of unlawful command influence were considered, and rejected, three times by the military judge presiding over his court-martial, and they were rejected another five times by military courts of appeal,” the DOJ’s motion reads. “During court-martial proceedings, Mr. Bergdahl brought three motions based on alleged unlawful command influence, first based on statements by Senator McCain, and then on remarks by President Trump. The parties offered over two hundred pages of briefing and exhibits, and extensive argument on the allegations, and the military judge issued three carefully-reasoned decisions rejecting Mr. Bergdahl’s claims.”

When Bergdahl initially went missing from his post in 2009, thousands of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan joined the search efforts to find him. Several U.S. troops were injured during search efforts in the months directly following Bergdahl’s disappearance.

“During the course of that grueling effort, many got sick. Some sustained serious, life-altering injuries,” the DOJ motion states. “Then-Corporal Jonathan Morita was shot in his dominant hand with a rocket-propelled grenade. Senior Chief James Hatch was shot in the leg at close range with an AK-47, shattering his femur, and requiring eighteen follow up surgeries.
Master Sergeant Mark Allen was shot in the head, requiring over a dozen surgeries. He was left suffering chronic pain for the rest of his life, unable to speak, interact with his children, or perform any basic life functions for himself.”

Allen died in 2019, at the age of 46, after a series of illnesses 10 years after he was shot, CNN reported.

In addition to noting Bergdahl’s guilty plea at trial, the DOJ motion noted, “Mr. Bergdahl acknowledged his role in bringing about these consequences. He explained that ‘[s]aying the words ‘I’m sorry’ is not enough . . . . [o]ffering condolences isn’t enough . . . . I can only hope that my accepting responsibility for my mistake . . . can help.”

While prosecutors originally pushed for Bergdahl to face up to 14 years in prison, he was ultimately given no prison time. A judge instead gave Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank and a forfeiture of some of his pay.