Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will serve no prison time for endangering his fellow soldiers when he walked off his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.
Army Col. Judge Jeffery R. Nance said Bergdahl will be dishonorably discharged and have his rank reduced to private. He was also ordered to forfeit $1,000 of pay per month for 10 months. He issued the ruling Friday at Fort Bragg in North Carolina after nearly two weeks of sentencing proceedings that included testimony by Bergdahl's former comrades.
Bergdahl, 31, was held by the Taliban for five years before being released in a prisoner swap in 2014. He said he walked away from his post in remote Afghanistan to alert commanders of issues at the post.
Bergdahl was extremely tense when entering the courtroom and stood before the judge with his attorneys' hands on his shoulders. The dramatic ruling lasted just two minutes. Bergdahl and his lawyers were immediately relieved when the judge read the decision, CBS News' Mark Strassmann reports. One attorney appeared to be in tears.
Defense attorney Eugene Fidell said the dishonorable discharge will not be final until Bergdahl exhausts his appeals. He called the case a "terrible ordeal" for Bergdahl.
"He's certainly glad this is over," Fidell told reporters.
Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy on Oct. 16 and faced the possibility of life in prison. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence him to 14 years behind bars, arguing that he was responsible for serious injuries soldiers suffered in the massive search effort to find him.
Bergdahl admitted his guilt without assurances from the prosecution about his sentencing, hoping for leniency before the judge. In emotional testimony Monday, Bergdahl apologized to soldiers who were wounded while searching for him.
"I would like everyone who searched for me to know it was never my intention for anyone to be hurt, and I never expected that to happen," he said. "My words alone can't take away their pain."
Bergdahl testified for two hours and described the brutal conditions he endured while held captive by the Taliban. He said he was beaten with copper wires and kept in a cage for four out of the five years he was held, causing his muscles to atrophy to the point where he could barely walk or stand.
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