Bergdahl’s lawyers say the military judge’s job application posed a conflict
CHARLOTTE, NC – A new motion filed in the case of the former US Army sergeant. Bowe Bergdahl asks the US military’s highest court of appeals to overturn his sentence, citing an alleged conflict of interest involving the judge who originally presided over his sentence.
The motion filed on Friday asks the Armed Forces Court of Appeals to re-examine the impartiality of retired Army Colonel Jeffrey Nance, the military judge who sentenced Bergdahl. The motion states that Nance was working to secure a job with the Justice Department at the time of her sentence in the Bergdahl case.
In 2017, Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misconduct before the enemy. Bergdahl was a 23-year-old private individual in June 2009 when, after five months in Afghanistan, he disappeared from his remote infantry post near the Pakistani border, sparking a massive search operation.
Videos surfaced soon after Bergdahl’s disappearance showing him being held captive by the Taliban. For years, the US has been keeping an eye on Bergdahl with spies and satellites as behind-the-scenes negotiations unfolded sporadically. Then, in May 2014, he was handed over to US Special Forces in an exchange with five Taliban inmates at Guantanamo Bay Prison, fueling an exciting debate in the United States over whether Bergdahl was a hero or a deserter.
Appeals judges upheld Bergdahl’s conviction earlier this year in a tight 3-2 decision when they found the disparaging comments made about Bergdahl by the late Senator John McCain and President Donald Trump in the House’s Rose Garden Bianca in October 2017 did not invalidate her accusation.
Trump described the former soldier as a “dirty rotten traitor”, called for Bergdahl to be executed by firing squad, and joked in last round’s election appearances that Bergdahl had to be dropped from a plane without a parachute.
On October 16, the same day Nance accepted Bergdahl’s guilty plea, court documents show he applied for a position as a federal immigration judge.
Following Trump’s comments, Bergdahl’s attorney asked Nance to dismiss the case because of Bergdahl’s “defamatory” comments from Trump.
According to court documents, Nance assured Bergdahl’s attorney that Trump’s comments would have no impact on his decision by saying, “I have no hopes or ambitions beyond my current rank … I am not completely swayed by any opinion. that President Trump may have on Sgt. Bergdahl. “
But according to the motion, Nance highlighted her role as a judge presiding over Bergdahl’s case while applying to work in the Justice Department and even included as a writing sample a ruling rejecting illegal arguments about the influence of Bergdahl’s command. .
Court documents state that Nance never disclosed that she was applying for a position as an immigration judge. But a press release announced his appointment to the position by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in September 2018.
Public affairs staff at the Department of Justice handling communications for the Georgia Immigration Court, who currently lists Nance as a judge, did not immediately respond to a comment email.
The motion was first reported on the CAAFlog website, which deals with military legal matters. Bergdahl’s attorney Eugene Fidell confirmed the motion posted on the blog was accurate, but declined further comments via email.
In November 2017, Nance spared Bergdahl prison with a ruling that included a dishonorable discharge, a reduction in rank and the loss of part of his pay. Prosecutors had called for a stiffer sentence of more than a decade in prison for injuries sustained by service members seeking Bergdahl after his disappearance in 2009. Trump quickly called the sentence a “shame” at the time.
Prior to sentencing, Nance rejected defense motions that the charges should be dismissed or punishment limited because Trump was exercising illegal command influence. Although he refused to speak out in favor of defense, he said at the time that he was concerned about Trump’s comments affecting public perception of the military justice system. He then said he would consider Trump’s comments a factor promoting leniency.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, and James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.