Yesterday I wrote about how President Trump’s tweets and other public statements about ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions are helping terrorists and traitors like Bowe Bergdahl by giving them viable defenses based on the inability to get a fair trial.
Today my point was conclusively proven.
People across the country are outraged that a military judge gave no jail sentence to Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who deserted his post, was captured by the Taliban, and caused five terrorists to be released from American custody to secure his release.
Bergdahl plead guilty to the charge of desertion, and today he was reduced in rank to E-1 and dishonorably discharged. But he was not sentenced to any time in prison.
Most of my fellow conservatives are furious about this sentence, as well they should be. However, their anger is misplaced when they call out the military judge who made this ruling. The judge did his job. The blame for the light sentence falls on his commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump.
During last year’s presidential race, candidate Trump called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.” Then, just two weeks ago, during a presidential press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Trump doubled down on that statement. A reporter asked whether the president thought his prior comments had hurt Bergdahl’s ability to receive a fair trial. Trump said he could not comment, and then added, “But I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
Bergdahl’s lawyers moved for leniency based on Trump having denied him a fair trial by exerting undue influence on the proceedings with his statements. The military judge said that he would take Trump’s “disturbing” comments into consideration when deciding Bergdahl’s sentence.
Today he did so. And, as infuriating as it is to me to have to say this, he got it right.
In fact, what this judge did was protect the rights of all of us from an oppressive and tyrannical government.
In order to guarantee that our government doesn’t become tyrannical, our Constitution (ratified by We the People) holds it to a high burden to prove its case. Even the guilty go free if the government doesn’t meet that burden.
While the government obviously has an evidentiary burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it also has the burden to guarantee that every criminal defendant gets a fair trial. This burden on the government exists to protect against it meeting its evidentiary burden by denying a defendant his due process rights.
So, to protect against government tyranny, if a defendant doesn’t get a fair trial, then he goes free – even if the evidence proves that he was guilty.
In the Bergdahl case, the government did meet its evidentiary burden of proving Bergdahl’s guilt (he admitted it) and of showing the severity of his crimes. However, when President Trump shot off his mouth about the case and the defendant, the government (that Trump leads) denied Bergdahl his right to a fair trial without undue influence by the commander-in-chief of all of the armed forces.
In banana republics, the ruler of the country is able to influence the outcomes of trials by making his wishes known. In a constitutional republic like the United States, we don’t tolerate that kind of interference in the justice system.
So, this military judge recognized his solemn obligation to protect the rights of any and all defendants to a fair trial when he took his commander-in-chief’s “disturbing” comments into account, concluded that those comments had deprived Bergdahl of a fair trial with regard to sentencing, and gave him a light sentence.
Don’t blame this judge for following the law and protecting our constitutional rights and protections. Blame President Donald Trump for interfering in the justice system with undue influence and thereby depriving Bergdahl of his constitutional rights and protections. It was Trump who forced this judge to make the decision he made.
Author: Ken Falkenstein
Ken Falkenstein is the Managing Editor of Committed Conservative and brings a wealth of experience and expertise in public affairs to the job. Ken served in the U.S. Army in the last years of the Cold War as a Russian linguist for military intelligence and the NSA. After leaving the Army, he earned his degree in Secondary Education from Old Dominion University, where he also wrote a popular column in the student newspaper.
Upon graduation, Ken worked as a Legislative Aide to two Republican members of the Virginia House of Delegates. Ken also served as Corresponding Secretary of the Young Republican Federation of Virginia, managed several successful political campaigns, and managed governmental affairs operations for a local Realtor association.
In 1995, Ken moved to Washington, DC to serve as a Legislative Assistant to Sen. John Warner (R-VA). While working for Sen. Warner, Ken attended law school at night, earning his J.D. with honors from the George Mason University School of Law (n/k/a The Antonin Scalia Law School). Since that time, Ken has practiced as a civil litigation attorney, including serving for three years as an Associate City Attorney for the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Ken previously was a contributor to the highly-regarded political blog Bearing Drift and was a weekly co-host of The Steve Batton Radio Program. In 2016, Ken ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia Beach School Board. Ken is also a former President of the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads.
Ken now lives outside of Denver, Colorado with his wife, Kim, and three sons, Adam, Dylan, and Joshua, who has Down syndrome. Ken’s writing is motivated and informed primarily by his concern for his kids’ future.