The judge presiding over the case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who’s been accused of desertion, ruled Friday that prosecutors won’t be able to rely on any evidence soldiers were wounded while searching aimlessly for Bergdahl.
Such an exclusion robs the prosecution of some of the most emotionally weighty evidence against Bergdahl, which is precisely why judge Army Col. Jeffery Nance said it needed to be excluded, as it would unfairly bias jurors against him, The Associated Press reports.
Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009, before being captured by the Taliban and returned to the U.S. later through a prisoner swap. In May 2014, the Obama administration handed over five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.
The charge of misbehavior before the enemy could land him in prison for life.
“The accused is not to be convicted because, while searching for him, his comrades were horrifically injured. Even (perhaps especially) hardened combat veterans of many deployments who might sit on this panel would be hard pressed not to be affected by the horrific injuries to SFC Allen, in particular,” Nance argued. “Since the danger can be avoided, I deem it should be.”
Ever since Bergdahl abandoned his post, questions have circulated about whether soldiers were injured or even killed while searching for him.
Prosecutors in the case said that soldiers were in fact wounded on July 8, 2009, during a firefight.
An officer from that mission said the purpose was to find Bergdahl.
Bergdahl’s defense lawyers have submitted a clemency application to the Obama administration in the hopes that Bergdahl might be granted a pardon before GOP President-elect Donald Trump takes control of the White House and before there’s even been a conviction. Trump has blasted Bergdahl numerous times during the 2016 presidential election and suggested that he’s a “no-good traitor, who should have been executed.”
According to numerous legal experts, there’s “zero evidence” to suggest President Barack Obama intends to interfere in the military justice system, much less before a conviction.
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