One Military Law Expert Weighs In On Bowe Bergdahl's Request For Presidential Pardon

Dec 13, 2016

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s lawyers want President Obama to pardon their client. The attorneys filed the request earlier this month, in a last-ditch effort to get Bergdahl off the hook before a new administration takes over.


Military law expert Richard Rosen of the Center for Military Law and Policy says the request for a presidential pardon is the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.  

“So I’ve not heard of a case like this, but this is a highly unusual case,” says Rosen. 

Bergdahl’s attorneys argue earlier comments from Donald Trump might sway the decision of a military court. As a candidate, the President-elect called the solider “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”

“I’m not sure what President Obama will do with the request," Rosen says. "Of course if he grants the pardon, game over. That’s it. He can’t be tried.”

Rosen says Bergdahl’s legal team is excellent and will try anything it can to avoid a conviction. But he’s also confident in the military justice system, and its independence from political influence. 

“They’re pretty independent. And the Uniform Code of Military Justice protects them from any adverse action being taken against them because of decisions they make as members of a court martial.” 

Rosen says from the beginning, the case of the former POW has been a political one. Back in 2014, President Obama secured Bergdahl’s release from the Taliban, in exchange for five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

“I just hope that if it does go to trial that politics stay out of it. This should be a trial based solely on whether Sgt. Bergdahl is guilty or not guilty. And if he’s guilty, what’s the appropriate sentence.”

The soldier has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, and could face life in prison. Obama has not responded to the pardon request. 

Bergdahl’s court martial has been delayed to April 2017.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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