Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army soldier who made headlines for being captured by the Taliban after deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009, will not be sent to prison, a North Carolina court ruled on Friday.
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Bergdahl was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, reduced in rank and fined after pleading guilty to endangering his comrades, but the fact that he will not face prison time infuriated some veterans.
“It’s disgraceful,” retired Col. David Hunt told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto. “The jury is completely wrong. Of course he’s going to get a dishonorable discharge, but he has to spend time in prison.”
Eight years after he was captured, 31-year-old Bergdahl pleaded guilty in mid-October to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He was the only American soldier to be captured by the Taliban, who held him for five years.
Bergdahl’s capture, and eventual return to the U.S., ignited a controversial national debate, which included President Donald Trump, who repeatedly called him a “dirty, rotten traitor” who deserved death during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In 2014, then-President Barack Obama brought Bergdahl home in exchange for the release of five Taliban prisoners who were being held at Guantanamo Bay. At the time, the deal divided Congress largely along partisan lines.
Prosecutors requested a 14-year prison term following weeks of emotional testimony from survivors wounded in the efforts to find and rescue Bergdahl after he left the base in June 2009. His defense argued that because the Taliban held him captive for five years, he did not deserve additional prison time.
“Sgt. Bergdahl paid a bitter price for the choices he made, and will for the rest of his life,” his defense team argued during the trial.
Hunt countered that receiving a dishonorable discharge was little punishment for Bergdahl, directly blaming him for the injuries his fellow service members received while searching for him.
“It just seems to me like it’s a gutless sentence that does no justice to the 99% of the men and women who serve honorably,” he said.