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UPDATE | Wounded soldier: Bergdahl sentence unacceptable

Friday, November 3, 2017

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A soldier who was wounded searching for Bowe Bergdahl says the lack of prison time in his sentence is "unacceptable."

Scores of troops searched for Bergdahl after he walked off his post near the Afghan town of Mest. Prosecutors cited two missions that resulted in serious wounds to two soldiers and a Navy SEAL.

One of the wounded soldiers, Jonathan Morita of California, still doesn't have full use of his dominant hand after bones were shattered when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade that didn't explode.

Asked by phone about his reaction to Bergdahl's sentence, he said: "I've had had better days."

He added: "The dishonorable discharge means he can't receive any of these services like I can. He'll pay the fine like people get fined for illegal fishing. Ok, whoop-de-doo."

Referring to the lack of prison time, he said: "That's the one that's completely unacceptable. It should have maybe not been the life sentence, but it should have been something."

1:15 p.m.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who walked off his post in Afghanistan and triggered a search that left several comrades severely wounded, will serve no prison time, a military judge ruled today at the end of the politically divisive case that stirred debate during the president campaign.

President Donald Trump, whose campaign-trail criticism loomed over the case, quickly called the sentence a "disgrace."

The charges centered on a decision by one soldier that affected many other lives. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held for five years, until President Barack Obama traded Taliban prisoners to bring him back.

As a presidential candidate, Trump called for Bergdahl to face stiff punishment. He could have received up to life in prison.

The judge also gave Bergdahl a dishonorable discharge, reduced his Army rank from sergeant to private and ordered him to forfeit pay equal to $1,000 per month for 10 months.

The judge gave no explanation of how he arrived at his decision, but he reviewed evidence including Bergdahl's time spent in captivity and the wounds suffered by Army searchers.

In court, Bergdahl appeared tense, grimaced and clenched his jaw. His attorneys put their arms around him and one patted him on the back.

His defense lawyer Eugene Fidell told reporters after sentencing his client "has looked forward to today for a long time."

Bergdahl "is grateful to everyone who searched for him in 2009, especially those who heroically sustained injuries," Fidell added.

Trump's tweet came about 90 minutes after the sentence was announced. "The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military," the president wrote.