U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has apologized to the troops who got hurt searching for him after he deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009 in testimony at a sentencing hearing.
"I made a horrible mistake," Bergdahl, 31, said on October 30 in his most extensive comments to date in the North Carolina military court proceedings where he pleaded guilty earlier this month to desertion charges. "Saying I’m sorry is not enough."
Bergdahl suffered a blow earlier in the day when the presiding military judge said President Donald Trump had not damaged his chances of getting a fair sentence by repeatedly calling him a "traitor" who should be executed while campaigning last year.
Judge Jeffery Nance, an army colonel, said Trump's "condemning and damning" statements will not influence him in determining Bergdahl's sentence.
"I am completely unaffected by any comments President Trump has made," he said, noting that he plans to retire next year and is not seeking any promotion that potentially could be blocked by the White House.
The judge said he would consider the president's comments as a mitigating factor, however, raising the possibility of a lighter punishment for Bergdahl.
Bergdahl faces a maximum sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty on October 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
The Idaho native was captured by the Taliban after walking off his combat outpost in Paktika Province in June 2009 and spent the next five years in captivity before he was released in a controversial prisoner exchange with the militant group.