A federal judge has voided former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's court-martial sentence and subsequent rulings on the case by military judges due to a possible conflict of interest. The judge in Bergdahl's case failed to disclose that he had applied for a civilian position at the Justice Department while presiding over the court-martial. As a result, all orders and rulings issued by the judge and subsequent decisions by appellate military courts have been vacated. Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in 2017 and received a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank, and forfeiture of pay. He appealed his case based on allegations of unlawful command influence by President Donald Trump and the late Sen. John McCain but was unsuccessful.
Bergdahl's attorneys filed a suit in civilian federal court arguing that he was denied a fair trial due to the judge's failure to disclose his future employment aspirations. The judge's actions were deemed to present an appearance of partiality. The judge rejected Bergdahl's claims of unlawful command influence, stating that the comments made by McCain and Trump did not influence the outcome of the case. Bergdahl deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years. The dismissal of the verdict may allow the Army to retry the case, giving Bergdahl an opportunity to submit a different plea.