A federal judge on Tuesday vacated the conviction and sentence of Bowe Bergdahl, a former Army sergeant who became a political flash point after he walked off a base in Afghanistan in protest and was held captive by the Taliban for five years.
Reggie B Walton of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia ruled that a military judge presiding over Bergdahl’s 2017 punishment process gave the potential appearance of a conflict of interest by failing to disclose that he applied for a job in the Trump administration during the former soldier’s legal proceedings.
The former president was a harsh critic of Bergdahl, refering to him once in 2016 as a “no-good traitor who should have been executed.”
The case was “a unique situation where the military judge might be inclined to appeal to the president’s expressed interest in the plaintiff’s conviction and punishment when applying,” the federal judge wrote in his ruling, according to The New York Times.
In 2017, a military court downgraded Bergdahl to the rank of private, dishonourably discharged him, and forced him to forfeit $10,000 in pay.
At the height of the War on Terror, Bergdahl became a household name after walking off his post in 2009, intending to hike to another base and report perceived misconduct in his unit.
While AWOL, the Taliban captured the Army sergeant and held him captive for five years.
The Obama administration secured Bergdahl’s freedom, releasing five high-level Taliban detainees in exchange for bringing the soldier back to the US.
Congressional Republicans hammered the administration for allegedly failing to give legislators sufficient notice of the transfers, and false conspiracy theories spread that multiple soldiers died while searching for the deserter.