Bergdahl sentencing delayed until Wednesday

By Ed Adamczyk and Danielle Haynes  |  Oct. 23, 2017 at 1:45 PM
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Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A military court judge on Monday delayed the sentencing of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdal, who pleaded guilty last week to desertion and endangering comrades eight years ago.

The judge, Col. Jeffrey R. Nance, recessed the court at Fort Bragg, N.C., until Wednesday.

CNN reported the delay was because of an attorney's family emergency, but NBC News reported the delay came after Bergdahl's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the case because of remarks made by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Bergdahl's defense team argued that comments by Trump and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., influenced the case and made it impossible for the Army sergeant to get a fair trial. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has repeated calls for a harsh sentence and has threatened to hold a panel hearing if Bergdahl is not punished.

In 2015, then-Republican presidential candidate Trump said Bergdahl should "face the death penalty for desertion." Trump also has called him a "traitor" and suggested once that he should be thrown from an airplane for endangering the lives of U.S. troops who went looking for him.

In February, Nance ruled that Trump's statements were "disturbing and disappointing," but said they did not amount to unlawful command influence that would prejudice the case.

Last week, Trump said, "I think people have heard my comments in the past." Friday, a White House statement said any military justice case must be "resolved on its own facts," without mentioning Bergdahl.

Bergdahl on Oct. 16 said he deserted his post while serving in Afghanistan eight years ago. He was captured by Taliban militants, who held him for five years, and returned to U.S. custody in a prisoner swap in 2014.

Bergdahl faces life in prison for the charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Prosecutors have offered no agreement to limit his potential prison sentence, and Nance has wide discretion in sentencing.

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