Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, charged with multiple war crimes, is released from custody; attorney plans to ask for case to be dismissed

by in News

Decorated Navy SEAL Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, who is accused of several war crimes including killing a teen ISIS fighter in 2017, was freed from custody Thursday, May 30, after the Navy judge presiding over the court-martial in a San Diego courtroom cited interference by prosecutors.

“That means he is free from restriction,” said Brian O’Rourke, spokesman for the Navy Region Southwest, following the hearing. “The judge said that is his ‘relief and remedy’ for all the interference with the email tracking.”

In earlier hearings, Gallagher’s defense attorney Tim Parlatore claimed that emails containing tracking devices were distributed to 13 lawyers and paralegals on the defense team, as well as to the editor of Navy Times.

Thursday’s ruling, by Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh, came at the end of a five-hour hearing which had been set to rule on five motions from Parlatore.

The only motion addressed was Parlatore’s request that Rugh recuse himself from the trial, but that motion was withdrawn. Minutes before Rugh’s ruling to release Gallagher from custody, a time was set for Friday’s hearing to address Parlatore’s four other motions.

As Rugh made the ruling for release from custody, Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, who led a campaign to free her husband, burst into tears and hugged Gallagher.

“It was very emotional,” O’Rourke said.

On Friday, Parlatore plans to request all charges against Gallagher be dismissed. If they are not dismissed, he is expected to ask that the prosecutor, Cmdr. Chris Czaplak, be removed from the trial and be made available as a witness to the defense to be interviewed about the email tracking.

Rugh, on Thursday, said prosecutors had told him privately they planned to embed code in what he believed to be a court document to help them determine the source of leaks. But he said he didn’t have the power to authorize such an investigative tool, and wasn’t told they planned to plant the code in emails to defense lawyers or a journalist.

Parlatore is among several attorneys, including Marc Mukasey, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, defending the 39-year-old Gallagher.

The defense has argued that the case should be dismissed on grounds of alleged misconduct by the Navy prosecutor, agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the presiding judge.

Parlatore has accused Navy lawyers of conducting illegal surveillance of defense attorneys and news media with the help of a tracking beacon that he said was able to follow more than just when the email was opened and to whom it was forwarded. In court, Navy prosecutors said the email “auditing tools” they used were designed merely to detect the flow of emails without revealing their content.

“They’re calling it an audit tool when it is really a beacon,” Parlatore said last week. “It tracks IP addresses, sees when you open it, who you’re forwarding it to. Prosecutors are trying to justify their actions. It’s like the wolf guarding the hen house.”

Gallagher’s case has attracted Trump’s attention. Last week, a New York Times article reported that the president was considering a pardon for Gallagher and several other military members accused or convicted of war crimes. That didn’t happen over the Memorial Day weekend, as originally expected.

“Seems like he wasn’t going to act until after the trial,” Parlatore said. “From Chief Gallagher’s perspective that is what he prefers so he can prove his innocence.”

Gallagher was arrested Sept. 11 while being treated at Camp Pendleton’s Intrepid Spirit Center. The 19-year Navy veteran is accused of premeditated murder in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old ISIS fighter. At the time, he was serving as a medic with Naval Special Warfare Group One based out of San Diego.

Two other charges — one accusing Gallagher of posing with the corpse of the teen while filming an enlistment video and one accusing him of flying a drone over the teen’s corpse — were thrown out during a Feb. 4 hearing.

Gallagher is also charged with shooting a man in June 2017 and a woman in July of that year, both civilians classified as “noncombatants,” according to charge sheets.

On Jan. 4, Gallagher was arraigned on charges of premeditated murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He pleaded “not guilty” to all war crimes he is accused of committing during his 2017 deployment in Iraq.

Pending a dismissal, Gallagher’s trial is set to start June 10.