Bowe Bergdahl desertion conviction vacated by judge

Bergdahl's actions, and the lack of punishment he received, have long divided opinion.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
On Tuesday, a federal judge vacated the desertion conviction handed down to Bowe Bergdahl by a military court in 2017, citing a potential conflict of interest involving the military judge.

The former United States Army soldier abandoned his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, who tortured him for years. During the rescue attempt, many of his colleagues were injured. Upon returning to the US, he pleaded guilty and was court-martialed, but avoided jail time. 

According to NBC News, US District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the military judge who presided over Bergdahl's 2017 court-martial, Jeffrey Nance, had neglected to diclose the fact that he had applied to become an immigration judge for the Department of Justice upon retirement from the military system. Walton deemed this to constitute a potential conflict of interest, thus rendering the case void.

Bergdahl's lawyers had attempted to have the case dismissed on the ground that proceedings had been unduly influenced by comments from politicians, however Walton rejected those claims in March.

Among those who spoke out against Bergdahl were the late Sen. John McCain, and former president Donald Trump. While the former warned that he would inititate congressional hearings if Bergdahl was not punished, the latter outright referred to him as a "dirty rotten traitor" during a campaign speech.

As the Military Times reports, Bergdahl was released from the Taliban and sent back to the US in 2014 as part of a prisoner swap with leaders of the terrorist group who had been held at Guantanamo Bay. Three years later, he was sentenced by the military court to a dishonorable discharge, reduction to the rank of private, and forfeiture of $10,000 in pay. He appealed the ruling in civilian court in 2021.

Bergdahl's actions, and the lack of punishment he received, divided opinion. His story became the focus of the hit podcast Serial's second season, further propelling him into the national discourse.
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