The Navy on Saturday evening announced Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was taking over any post-trial action in the case of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who was charged but found not guilty of murder of an ISIS fighter last month and other war crimes.
“Richardson, in accordance with the Manual for Courts Martial, withheld Navy Region Southwest’s authority to take any action in the Gallagher court-martial Saturday, Aug. 3. He will assume responsibility for any disposition action in the trial. Any previous post-trial action has been rescinded,” the Navy announced.
The move comes after the Navy dropped charges against Gallagher’s platoon commander — who was facing allegations he failed to take action against Gallagher — and ordered a review of its Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps amid some questionable actions taken by prosecutors in the Gallagher case.
The Navy charged Gallagher, 40, in 2018 with murder of a wounded ISIS fighter during his deployment to Iraq in 2017, as well as shooting at innocent civilians, based off the accounts of several junior SEALs he led on deployment.
Gallagher denied those allegations, and his defense team claimed the junior SEALs had made them up to because they resented his hard-charging style during the deployment and him calling them “cowards,” and wanted to derail a Silver Star award, a promotion, and a coveted training assignment where they would find themselves under him again. Their allegations succeeded in derailing those things, but also prompted Gallagher’s arrest and a court-martial.
The prosecution’s case hit bumps even before the trial began. Defense attorneys accused them of repeatedly hiding exculpatory evidence, but they also discovered that prosecutors sent them emails with spyware embedded in them to monitor their communications. The judge in the case finally ordered the lead prosecutor to be removed from the case.
Then, during the trial, the prosecution’s star witness against Gallagher admitted that he actually killed the ISIS fighter, not Gallagher. The stunned prosecution then accused their own witness of lying on the stand to save Gallagher.
The defense team and Gallagher’s family had also raised numerous concerns over Navy prosecutors leaking to media, as well as coercing testimony from witnesses. They also had concerns over some Navy officials circulating rumors that there was damning video of Gallagher when it was actually exculpatory.
Richardson stepped in after reports the Navy awarded prosecutors achievement medals despite losing the case, and that the judge in the case attended the ceremony. He ordered for charges against Gallagher’s commander, Lt. Cmdr. Jacob Portier, be dropped, for a review of the JAG Corps, and later, for the convening authority in Gallagher’s case to cease all disposition action in the case and rescind actions taken post-trial.
Although Gallagher was found not guilty of murder or shooting innocent civilians, he was convicted of one count of posing with the corpse of the dead ISIS fighter, the only charge he did not deny. He was sentenced to four months of confinement, a reduction in rank from E-7 to E-6, and a fine.
Since Navy regulations mandate that anyone confined for over three months would be reduced to the lowest enlisted pay grade, Gallagher could be busted down in rank to E-1, which would dramatically decrease the amount of retirement benefits he would receive after 20 years in the military. The convening authority of the court-martial, commander of Navy Region Southwest, had authority to approve that sentence. However, Richardson’s latest order now gives him the authority over that decision.
Gallagher’s wife Andrea said in an interview on Saturday morning that they are still being “terrorized” by the Navy.
“We won, and we’re still being terrorized,” she said on Fox & Friends. “He should have been retired, and they are withholding that, they’re not letting him retire. They’re withholding the decisions. They’re trying to take away his rank, they’re trying to take away his retirement, his ability to get his disability. All of these factors are just sour grapes because they lost.”
“It’s vindictiveness. It’s vindictiveness,” Gallagher’s brother Sean added. “Eddie is vindicated, we went through the process and came out victorious and yet, and yet they are still trying to, as [Andrea] said, put their thumb on him.
“And It’s one of those things where they’re so mad that they lost they’re trying to do anything they can before he gets out to reduce his rank, to take his health care — the guy’s been in 20 years, eight combat tours. They’re going to say in 10 years when you need to go to the VA you can’t do that anymore. That is what they’re holding over us now,” he said.