The Navy has decided to drop all charges against Lt. Jacob Portier, the former platoon commander for Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was recently found not guilty of killing a wounded ISIS fighter in a high-profile case that exposed poor preparation and potentially unethical practices by Navy prosecutors in the case.
Portier was accused of failing to report Gallagher’s alleged war crimes up the chain of command. Gallagher was accused of stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death, as well as shooting at innocent civilians while on deployment to Iraq in 2017.
A small group of junior SEALs who had deployed with Gallagher made the allegations against Gallagher and Portier. However, during Gallagher’s trial, the prosecution’s star witness, another SEAL, admitted to killing the ISIS fighter, destroying the prosecution’s case. The defense said the prosecution had simply not asked the SEAL how the fighter died.
Even before that, the prosecution had suffered other problems — including being caught sending spy software to Gallagher and Portier’s defense attorneys and a journalist without a warrant. The lead prosecutor was dismissed just weeks before the trial over the spying.
Despite the prosecution’s missteps, the Navy awarded the prosecutors and their staff with Navy Achievement Medals at a ceremony where the Navy judge in Gallagher’s case and Portier’s case attended. President Trump on Wednesday ordered the Navy to rescind those awards.
….to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion. I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2019
On Thursday, the Navy announced it was dropping charges against Portier.
“Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson today dismissed all charges in the case of Lt. Jacob Portier,” said the statement.
It also announced that no action would be taken against the Navy SEAL who confessed to killing the ISIS fighter. The SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Corey Scott, had testified under immunity. “Richardson took this action in the best interest of justice and the Navy,” the statement said.
The Navy also announced it would review the performance of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.
“Additionally, as part of an ongoing assessment of Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps performance, Richardson directed Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bob Burke to conduct a Comprehensive Review into the leadership and performance of the JAG Corps. This review is intended to ensure the JAG Corps provides exemplary support to the Navy and the nation,” it said
An attorney representing Scott told Task & Purpose in a statement that his client was “profoundly grateful the President and Chief of Naval Operations have intervened to exonerate LT Portier. LT Portier was a model of courage on the battlefield in the fight against ISIS and back home in the defense of his platoon.”
Gallagher, while exonerated of murder and attempting to shoot at innocent civilians, was convicted on one charge related to taking a photo with the ISIS fighter’s corpse — which he did not deny. The charge, however, could result in Gallagher’s pay grade busted down from E-7 to E-1 — which would drastically reduce the retirement pay he will receive for his 20 years in the military.
Gallagher’s lawyer is fighting to allow Gallagher to retire at his current rank.
“Since his acquittal, Eddie Gallagher has been continuously subjected to unlawful retaliation by the command and the JAG Corps. Because the local Navy leadership seems entirely deaf to the guidance provided by both the Pentagon and the White House to end this nightmare, someone at a higher level needs to step in and order that Eddie Gallagher be permitted to immediately retire as a Chief Petty Officer,” his attorney Tim Parlatore told Navy Times.
He is also urging for the Navy to investigate the junior SEALs who launched the charges against Gallagher.
“These witnesses went in and lied and the Navy is making zero efforts to investigate them for perjury and hold them accountable,” he said.