A U.S. military judge ruled Friday that Bowe Bergdahl, the USA soldier who deserted his Afghanistan post only to be held captive by insurgents for five years, would serve no prison time after a politically charged trial.
The sentence drew swift condemnation from US President Donald Trump, who called it "a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military" in a Twitter post from Air Force One as he flew on the first leg of a trip to Asia.
The judge ordered Sergeant Bergdahl to be dishonourably discharged, his rank slashed to private, and that he pay a $10,000 fine, the Pentagon said. The judge is expected to sentence Sergeant Bergdahl in the next few weeks.
The soldier had been facing up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy. Bergdahl was nervous, clenching both hands as he left the court with his lawyers.
Bergdahl's defense team argued that the soldier suffered from several mental health conditions - with experts testifying that a schizophrenia-like condition likely led him to leave his post - and should not be sent to prison.
In closing arguments, defence lawyers argued that he had already suffered enough confinement during five years of brutal captivity.
Army Colonel Jeffery Nance delivered the sentence in a hearing that lasted just two minutes, and did not comment on his decision.
"This has been a bad ordeal", Eugene Fidell, one of the soldier's lawyers, said after the hearing.
When asked in the Rose Garden last month if his past comments have affected Bergdahl's ability to have a fair trial, Trump said he couldn't comment due to ongoing sentencing decisions, "but I think people have heard my comments in the past".
A punitive discharge deprives Bergdahl of most or all his veterans' benefits.
The 31-year-old, from Hailey, Idaho, was brought home by Mr Obama in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor who should be executed.
Prosecutors wanted a stiff punishment because of wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl after he disappeared in 2009.
Deserting his post was consistent with Bergdahl's personality disorder, said Dr. Charles Morgan.
The soldier said he had walked away from his outpost in Paktika province to report problems in his unit.