The military judge presiding over Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s case has delayed the sentencing hearing to Wednesday after considering new comments from President Donald Trump that may threaten public confidence in military courts.
Bergdahl, who walked off his post in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban before being sent back to the United States in 2014 as part of a Taliban prisoner swap, pleaded guilty last week to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
The sentencing hearing was supposed to happen Monday, but as part of a last-ditch effort, Bergdahl’s defense attorneys argued that new comments from Trump indicate that he still has the same views of Bergdahl as he had during the campaign, which may negatively influence public perception of the military court system, The Associated Press reports.
“I can’t comment on Bowe Bergdahl because he’s — as you know, they’re — I guess he’s doing something today, as we know,” Trump said Oct. 16. “And he’s also — they’re setting up sentencing, so I’m not going to comment on him. But I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
Bergdahl’s lawyers said that Trump’s reference to his past comments means he still holds the same views; namely, that Bergdahl is a “dirty, rotten traitor.” At another point during his campaign, Trump suggested that Bergdahl should be shot. Trump also said in December 2015 that Bergdahl should be thrown out of a plane with no parachute.
While Nance thinks he can deliver a fair ruling because he plans on retiring and thus isn’t bent on securing promotions, he’s concerned about public confidence in the justice system, given Trump’s comments.
“The member of the public that we are interested in maintaining confidence in the military justice system … is going to be influenced by context,” Nance said.
The Bergdahl sentencing hearing is set to resume Wednesday.
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