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Sentencing Delayed In U.S. Afghan Deserter Case As Judge Weighs Trump Comments


FILE: U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Sentencing for Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army sergeant who pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades by abandoning his post in Afghanistan in 2009, has been delayed as a military judge weighed the impact of comments by President Donald Trump on the case.

Sentencing was due to start on October 23, but the judge, U.S. Army Colonel Jeffery Nance, heard last-minute arguments by defense attorneys that earlier comments by Trump had prevented a fair proceeding.

Bergdahl's attorney, Eugene Fidell, argued Bergdahl -- who faces a possible life sentence -- should be spared prison time because Trump had unlawfully influenced the proceedings.

"[Trump's] statements clearly called for Sergeant Bergdahl to be severely punished," Fidell argued in the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, court.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump called Bergdahl "a no-good traitor who should have been executed."

Nance, who allowed attorneys to question him about the impact of Trump's comments, said he did not believe he was influenced by the remarks and that he had no "doubt whatsoever that I can be fair and impartial in the sentencing."

He indicated he would issue a written ruling later on defense attorneys' request to have the case thrown out over Trump's comments.

Sentencing was scheduled to resume on October 25.

Berghahl will be sentenced on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after pleading guilty on October 16.

Bergdahl, 31, was held captive for five years by allies of the Taliban after he left his military post in Afghanistan.

In a deal with his captors, the Obama administration in 2014 agreed to release five Taliban prisoners from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl's release.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

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