The U.S. government has filed a motion to dismiss Afghanistan deserter and former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's petition to have his military conviction and sentence overturned.
Justice Department lawyers in its civil division filed a motion Aug. 2 asking District Court Senior Judge Reggie Walton to toss the case, Military.com reported.
Bergdahl pleaded guilty in 2017 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after leaving his post in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, on June 30, 2009. He was captured by the Taliban, which held him captive for five years.
Bergdahl had argued that he ditched his post because he wanted to call attention to poor leadership and his observations of the situation in Afghanistan.
But his departure from the remote observation base set off a massive search-and-rescue mission that involved thousands of U.S. troops, some of whom were injured in the effort, Military.com reported.
Bergdahl’s case jumped back in the headlines after the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan. One of the leaders who supposedly helped orchestrate the takeover, Khairullah Khairkhwa, was reportedly one of five prisoners freed from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and exchanged for Bergdahl's release in 2014.
Bergdahl first appealed his case in 2019, arguing negative remarks made by then-President Donald Trump and the late Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain constituted unlawful command influence and may have unfairly swayed the court-martial proceedings.
In a 3-2 decision in August 2020, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces upheld his conviction, saying the comments did not invalidate his prosecution and pointing out that he had pleaded guilty.
Bergdahl then filed a suit in February in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to have his case overturned.
In requesting that the suit be dismissed, Julia Heiman, senior counsel for the Justice Department, argued military courts have "exhaustively considered" the unlawful command influence issue.
"It would be an understatement to say that the military courts 'fully' considered plaintiff's claims of unlawful command influence," she wrote in the motion to dismiss.
Bergdahl also argued the judge in the original case, Jeffrey Nance, should have recused himself from the court-martial because he had applied for a job with the Justice Department as an immigration judge.
Heiman said it was moot because Bergdahl waited two years after Nance was working as an immigration lawyer in Trump's Justice Department to bring up the issue.
Military.com, citing court documents, reported several soldiers were injured in the massive manhunt that ensued following Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban, including Cpl. Jonathan Morita, who was shot in the hand with a rocket-propelled grenade; Senior Chief James Hatch, who was shot in the leg with an AK-47; and Master Sgt. Mark Allen, who died in 2009 as the result of his wounds during the search, having been shot in the head.
Bergdahl has until Oct. 4 to respond to the Justice Department's motion to dismiss.
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