The on-going court-martial of U.S. Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher for killing an unarmed, wounded prisoner has taken a turn into uncharted waters.
Gallagher, a very decorated SEAL with multiple deployments under his belt, is charged with stabbing to death a wounded prisoner from the Islamic State and then filming a re-enlistment ceremony with the dead prisoner as a focal point in the midst of it.
He has been awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device twice, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and a trio of Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals, among his many awards and decorations.
Galagher was also charged with the shooting of countless civilians with no ties to terror or terrorism with his sniper rifle for no reason other than to rack up a body count. He then bragged about the number of kills publicly and then threatened any other SEALs who complained to higher headquarters.
At the time of the incident, Gallagher’s team of SEALs (Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7), was operating with Iraqis from the Emergency Response Division. The Iraqis called airstrikes in on a building where ISIS fighters were holed up in Mosul.
One ISIS fighter, approximately 15-years old was wounded and captured. The Iraqis took the prisoner to the SEALs compound where their medics including Gallagher began to give him treatment.
Then as the medic stabilized the injured ISIS man, Gallagher supposedly began to stab the fighter, which according to testimony in the Article 32 hearing from an NCIS investigator, left the medic, “in complete disbelief.”
Gallagher allegedly then texted photos of him cradling the dead ISIS fighter’s head with the caption, “I got him with my hunting knife,” according to prosecutors. There are supposedly several photos of this reportedly taken from Gallagher’s cell phone.
Gallagher, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, has been held in the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar in San Diego since Sept. 11 when he was arrested at Camp Pendleton. His lawyers have complained about his treatment since, at the time of his arrest, Gallagher was being treated at the Naval hospital for a traumatic brain injury.
This lack of treatment has attracted the attention of Texas congressman and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas). Crenshaw and 17 other Republican congressmen have signed a letter and have “requested that (the Navy) review” the brig conditions for Gallagher in their letter, citing allegations from Gallagher’s family that “he has not had sufficient access to his defense counsel” nor “adequate access to proper food and medical care.”
The trial was initially slated to begin on February 19 but has since been moved to May 28, because his lawyers complained that the Navy dropped a bunch of new evidence on them on the eve of the trial before they had a chance to examine it.
The Navy Times reported that someone linked to the case released documents in the form of email messages and search warrants to them that show that the Navy seized a number of cell phones and electronic communications beginning in early February. This evidence allegedly proves that Gallagher urged fellow SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group — or DEVGRU (also known publicly as SEAL Team 6) — to obstruct justice or retaliate against junior sailors who were testifying against him for war crimes.
NCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are implying that Gallagher and other SEALs in both Carolina and Virginia including DEVGRU are in collusion, communicating together for the purpose of retaliating against any younger or junior SEALs who were testifying against Gallagher for his alleged war crimes. Which is why NCIS investigators are doing forensic examinations on cell phones and other communication devices to look for any wrongdoing.
The Navy has charged Gallagher’s former SEAL platoon leader Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, a for allegedly trying to cover up Gallagher’s crimes. His lawyers are pushing for a speedy trial since they claim that no cover up either by Portier or the SEAL command at Coronado ever existed.
Jeremiah J. Sullivan, III, Portier’s attorney, says the Navy is pushing this collusion angle with DEVGRU since their investigators went up the chain of command and didn’t get the answers or results that they were looking for.
“They’ve expanded the scope of their investigations to try to prove their theory of collusion but the collusion simply doesn’t exist,” he said
The Navy also gave testimonial immunity to seven other SEALs to get them to testify against Gallagher in this case. Therein lies the hidden Catch-22 for the SEALs being granted this immunity.
Testimonial immunity protects any witness testifying on the witness stand from being charged for crimes they admit under oath to committing. However, it doesn’t protect them from any testimony given by others who later testify.
So while a sailor could admit that he broke the law in his testimony, he could still be prosecuted if any other sworn statements of other witnesses or other corroborating evidence that was obtained independently from his words in court.
However, transactional immunity offers a witness blanket protection from future prosecution and it’s routine for attorneys to seek both forms of protection for their clients in similar cases.
Prosecutors for the government have stated that they have several SEALs who will testify against Gallagher for war crimes. But it seems that either the prosecutors were fishing for some kind of collusion in a larger scale investigation or they’ve gotten wind of an effort to stop the SEALs given immunity from testifying. Either way, it isn’t a good look for the Naval Special Warfare Command or USSOCOM which has not had a good year in terms of negative press.
Photos: US Navy