Eddie Gallagher (Navy SEAL)
Edward R. Gallagher
|Born||May 29, 1979|
Fort Wayne, Indiana, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Years of service||1999–2019|
|Rank||Chief Petty Officer|
|Unit||U.S. Navy SEALs|
|Battles/wars||War in Afghanistan |
Operation Inherent Resolve
|Awards||Bronze Star Medal with V Device (2)|
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Edward R. Gallagher (born May 29, 1979) is a former United States Navy SEAL who came to national attention in the United States after he was charged in September 2018 with ten offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice over accusations that he had stabbed to death an injured, sedated 17-year-old ISIS prisoner, photographing himself with the corpse and sending the photo to friends. He was also accused by fellow Navy SEAL snipers of randomly shooting two Iraqi civilians: a girl walking with her friends on a riverbank; and an unarmed elderly man. During the trial, President Donald Trump ordered Gallagher moved from pretrial confinement to house arrest.
Gallagher was acquitted on all but one of the charges he faced on July 2, 2019. He was found guilty of posing for a photograph with the teenager's corpse in violation of Uniform Code of Military Justice article 134, "General article". Gallagher was sentenced to demotion and four months of confinement, which resulted in him being released for time served during pretrial confinement. His trial included an unexpected confession from medic Special Warfare Operator 1st class Corey Scott, who, while testifying under immunity, claimed that he suffocated the victim to save him the fate he would suffer if turned over to Iraqi authorities and said that Gallagher has "got a wife and a family, I don't think he should be spending his life in prison." Although during the same testimony, Scott attested that Gallagher did stab the teenage captive, the jury in the end found Gallagher not guilty of the stabbing according to his lawyer Timothy Parlatore. After Gallagher was sentenced to time served and demoted from Chief Petty Officer to Petty Officer First Class, Trump reversed the demotion and later ordered the Navy to cancel administrative proceedings intended to revoke Gallagher's status as a Special Warfare Operator.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on May 29, 1979, Gallagher graduated from Bishop Dwenger High School. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1999. Gallagher had eight overseas deployments, including service in both the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. He was trained as a medic, a sniper, and an explosives expert. He was the first non-Marine to graduate from the United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper School that he attended. He was attached to a U.S. Marine Corps unit until he enrolled in Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL (BUD/S) class 252 to become a Navy SEAL in 2005.
During his service, he was decorated for valor several times, including two Bronze Stars. He received positive evaluations from his superiors within the SEALs, and served as an instructor in the SEALs BUD/S program for recruits. Gallagher goes by the nickname "Blade".
Gallagher also attracted controversies and investigations, although few formal reprimands. He was the subject in an investigation of the shooting of a young girl in Afghanistan in 2010, but was cleared of wrongdoing in it. He also allegedly tried to run over a Navy police officer with his car in 2014 after being detained at a traffic stop. By 2015, Gallagher had acquired a reputation as someone who was more interested in "fighting terrorists" and less interested in compliance with rules. In his eighth deployment in 2017, Gallagher's aggressive side was seemingly amplified, especially during the Battle for Mosul, wherein the US force mission was intended to be more advisory than direct combat. Gallagher was the subject of a number of reports from his fellow SEAL team members of actions not in keeping with the rules of war, but initially these reports were dismissed by the SEAL command structure. Only after the reports were escalated outside the SEALs were they acted upon and directed to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
On September 11, 2018, Gallagher was arrested aboard Camp Pendleton and charged with premeditated murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice, and other offenses. On October 18, Lieutenant Jacob Portier of Gallagher's platoon was also charged with failing to properly escalate to his superiors in the chain of command, as well as destroying evidence. Gallagher pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
Awards and decorations
Gallagher was accused of multiple offenses during his final deployment to Iraq and during the Battle for Mosul. The most prominent accusation and the best-attested to was the murder of a prisoner of war, a war crime. Khaled Jamal Abdullah, a captured 17-year-old fighter of the Islamic State (also known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh), was being treated by a medic. According to two SEAL witnesses, Gallagher said over the radio "he's mine" and walked up to the medic and Abdullah, and without saying a word killed Abdullah by stabbing him repeatedly with his hunting knife. Gallagher and his commanding officer, Lieutenant Jake Portier, then posed for photographs of them standing over the body with some other nearby SEALs. Gallagher then text messaged a friend in California a picture himself holding the dead captive's head by the hair with the explanation "Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
Another accusation was that Gallagher's sniper work during his 2017 deployment became indiscriminate, reckless, and bloodthirsty. He allegedly fired his rifle far more frequently than other snipers; according to testimony, the other snipers in the platoon did not consider him a good sniper, and he took "random shots" into buildings. Other snipers said they witnessed Gallagher taking at least two militarily pointless shots, shooting and killing an unarmed old man in a white robe as well as a young girl walking with other girls. Gallagher allegedly boasted about the large number of people he had killed, claiming he averaged three kills a day over 80 days, including four women. Gallagher also was reportedly known for indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine gun fire with no known enemy force in the region.
A charge of obstruction of justice was brought against Gallagher for alleged witness intimidation. According to the claim, Gallagher allegedly threatened to kill fellow SEALs if they reported his actions. The Navy cited his text messages as attempting to undermine the investigation, with messages sent to "pass the word on those traitors", meaning cooperating witnesses, and to get them blacklisted within the special warfare community. This resulted in him being confined in the brig for a time with heavy restrictions on his ability to communicate, although this confinement was later lessened.
According to the original Navy prosecutor Chris Czaplak, "Chief Gallagher decided to act like the monster the terrorists accuse us of being. He handed ISIS propaganda manna from heaven. His actions are everything ISIS says we are."
Court martial controversies
The case was considered to be a "difficult" one because the Navy did not begin a formal investigation for nearly a year after the reports were made and by then much of the physical evidence, such as the bodies of those alleged to be killed by Gallagher, were not recoverable. The family of Abdullah, the boy Gallagher allegedly stabbed to death, was contacted by media several years after the event and claimed that they were unaware of the circumstances surrounding their son's death and that they had not been contacted by prosecutors.
The prosecution's case relied largely on eyewitness testimony, which the defense sought to discredit as merely that of spiteful malcontents who disliked Gallagher's gruff leadership style. The defense also said that Gallagher's text messages merely reflected dark comedy in a stressful situation, and that his more outrageous boasts, such as killing twenty people a day, were clearly impossible. Some of the potential witnesses were non-cooperative, citing the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination for being hesitant to testify.
The defense also claimed that the lead NCIS agent slanted witness statements and interviews to be more hostile to Gallagher than warranted in his notes. For the most serious charge of murder of a prisoner, according to the defense, Gallagher merely stabbed a corpse and embellished a story out of misplaced bravado; the prisoner had already died of his wounds. The defense cited two high-ranking Iraqi Army members that the detainee was "barely alive" when he arrived; according to prosecution witnesses, the prisoner's leg injury didn't appear serious to the initial medic who treated the prisoner, and that the medic was surprised the detainee was dead when he returned.
In March 2019, former Navy SEAL and U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas and seventeen other Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to then-Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer asking for Gallagher's pre-trial confinement to be reviewed. On March 30, President Trump intervened and ordered Gallagher transferred to "less restrictive confinement" after complaints from his supporters, particularly commentators on Fox and Friends, about his detainment. This was the first time a President directly intervened in an imprisonment conditions matter since President Richard Nixon intervened in favor of Lieutenant William Calley, one of the perpetrators of the My Lai Massacre, by ordering him released from a military brig to house arrest in 1971.
In May 2019, defense lawyers accused the prosecution of sending both them and Navy Times reporter Carl Prine an email that included a Web beacon. People who viewed the original email or a forward of this email would likely load the image through their mail-reading program (electronic mail, or e-mail client), which would record where it came from; this allows for imperfect monitoring of who has seen an email, without installing any software. It has been speculated that this image was intended to find leakers violating the judge's gag order, as reporters (including Prine) have repeatedly scooped private documents related to the case. As a result of the spying controversy, the judge ordered Gallagher freed from prison while awaiting trial as a remedy to interference from the prosecution. The judge later ordered that the chief prosecutor, Commander Christopher Czaplak, be dismissed from the case and replaced as a result of the incident.
On May 8, 2019, former Congressman Duncan D. Hunter, a Republican, showed combat video footage from a helmet camera to a group of legislators that he said exonerated Gallagher of one of the charges against him. Hunter told reporters that he intended to ask for a presidential pardon if Gallagher was convicted. According to anonymous administration sources, the Justice Department was reviewing Gallagher's case in preparation for a possible pardon from President Trump. This potential pardon was hotly criticized by a number of commentators and news outlets. During a podcast interview on May 28, 2019 Hunter said that he himself had posed for pictures with a dead enemy combatant and that American artillery fire had killed "hundreds" of Iraqi civilians in and around Fallujah.
On June 20, 2019, during Gallagher's trial, one of the platoon medics from Gallagher's team testifying as a prosecution witness said that although Gallagher did stab the ISIS fighter, he did not actually kill him. The medic, Special Operator First Class Corey Scott who testified under an immunity agreement, testified that he himself had killed the wounded prisoner by covering his breathing tube and asphyxiating him. Scott called it a "mercy killing" and argued that the victim would have been tortured by Iraqi personnel due to his connection to the Islamic State.
Prosecutors were taken by surprise by Scott's testimony, since the medic had never given this version of events to them or Navy investigators. This account was also contrary to the statements of at least seven other SEALs as well as Scott's previous statements. Because of the immunity agreement Scott cannot be prosecuted even for admitting publicly that he killed the man, though he could be prosecuted for perjury if the account is proven false.
Court martial result
Conviction and demotion
The jury for Gallagher's court-martial was composed of five enlisted men, including a Navy SEAL and four Marines, plus a Navy commander and a Marine chief warrant officer, after the defense had rejected several other candidates. On July 2, 2019, they acquitted him on six of the seven original charges but found him guilty of the seventh charge of "wrongfully posing for an unofficial picture with a human casualty". That charge carried a maximum prison sentence of four months. Since Gallagher had already served more time during his pre-trial confinement, he was released.
After the trial, it was considered possible that Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, the SEAL Medic whose surprise testimony dismantled the prosecution's case, would be prosecuted for perjury; however, Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson stripped Navy prosecutors of their authority to charge Scott with perjury. The same jury that tried Gallagher sentenced him on July 3, 2019, for posing with the corpse. The jury gave Gallagher, who had already served the maximum prison time for this charge, a demotion from Chief Petty Officer (E-7) to Petty Officer First Class (E-6); this was lighter than other potential punishments, such as an other than honorable discharge (OTH), which were not handed down. President Trump congratulated Gallagher on his acquittal over Twitter. Four weeks later, President Trump announced over Twitter he had directed the Secretary of the Navy to revoke Navy Achievement Medals given to members of the prosecution team that oversaw Gallagher's case.
After the closure of the case, Gallagher and his initial lawyer entered a dispute in August 2019. According to his first lawyer, Colby Vokey, Gallagher did not pay Vokey's specified rate, and filed an arbitration claim against Gallagher. According to Gallagher, Vokey performed no useful services and was bilking him. Gallagher cut ties with Vokey and the United American Patriots in March 2019 and directed supporters to use a different non-profit to raise funds for his defense, the Navy SEALs Fund.
Request for clemency
Gallagher and his lawyers made an appeal for clemency at the conclusion of the court martial; such requests are frequently made, although rarely successful. Due to the charged nature of the case, this request went high up the chain of command. The request was initially rejected by Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar. After President Trump brought the issue up at a meeting with Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson, Admiral Richardson took up the request personally. After Richardson's retirement in August 2019, his replacement Admiral Michael M. Gilday took ownership of the request. Gilday eventually partially granted the request in October 2019: he reduced the punishment from a full demotion to a one-rank demotion to special operator first class, as the jury had recommended, rather than the default demotion to Seaman Recruit (E-1). This would result in an improvement to Gallagher's pension and retirement benefits. According to a former Navy prosecutor, the top admiral in the Navy directly handling such a matter is extremely rare, but not unmerited due to the high profile of the case.
Intervention by President Donald J. Trump
The clemency decision ended up moot: in November 2019, Trump declared that Gallagher's demotion would be reversed. A week earlier, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer had sent Trump a note asking him not to intervene again. The president's move also favored several other military members accused of misconduct: in addition to Gallagher, Lieutenant Clint Lorance was ordered freed; and the prosecution of Matthew Golsteyn was ordered to be ended.
Following his acquittal, Gallagher spoke publicly about the case, appearing on Fox News without authorization, and using social media to describe his superiors, including Rear Admiral Collin P. Green, the newly installed commander of the SEALS, as "a bunch of morons". Green ordered Gallagher's case to be investigated by the Trident Review Board, in order to determine whether Gallagher should be stripped of his SEAL Trident insignia, the official symbol of certification within the Naval Special Warfare SEAL community. [Green] noted that SEALs with criminal convictions almost always lose their Trident Pin.
On November 21, President Trump tweeted, "The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!" Spencer responded that terminating this probe could only be done via an official written order from the White House. Associates said Spencer would resign if such an order is issued, believing it undercuts his authority and that of Rear Adm. Collin Green, commander of the SEALs.
On November 24, 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had learned that Spencer made a private offer to the White House that if the White House did not interfere, he would guarantee that Gallagher would keep his Trident pin. This offer contradicted Spencer's public position and was kept secret from Esper. Esper immediately fired Spencer for going outside the chain of command. The next day (Nov. 25) Esper said that Trump had ordered him to allow Gallagher to keep his Trident Pin, so that Gallagher remains a SEAL until his retirement at the end of November. Also on November 25, Trump told reporters that Gallagher "was one of the ultimate fighters". Gallagher's case was scheduled for a hearing by the Navy SEAL review board on December 2, 2019.
Just before reaching his retirement date and towards the end of the Trident Board proceedings, Gallagher appeared on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends. When Gallagher was asked by host Pete Hegseth to offer his opinion, Gallagher opined: "...this is all about ego and retaliation and this has nothing to do with good order and discipline. They could have taken my Trident at any time they wanted, [but] now they are trying to take it after the President restored my rank and after we just filed IG (Inspector General complaint) exposing all the corruption that has been going on during my case."
Gallagher was one of three military personnel accused or convicted of war crimes on whose behalf Trump had intervened to pardon or promote. Trump told a rally audience days after his intervention, "I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state."
At the end of November 2019, Gallagher retired from the Navy with full honors, pension, and medical benefits. Following his Navy career, Gallagher began commercial ventures including a clothing line and a nutritional supplement (RedCon1) endorsements.
David Martin of CBS News, interviewed Gallagher on the CBS special 60 Minutes. David Martin mentioned in his post-interview statements during the segment 60 Minutes Overtime; "Gallagher is obviously, for good reason, a fan of President Trump and thanks him at every opportunity he gets."
Martin: So..you were obviously grateful to the President? - "I am"
Martin: Are you going to campaign for his re-election? - "I have not been personally asked to campaign for his re-election...from him, but if he asks me to help out in anyway, yes....I would. He helped save my life"
He was interviewed in 2020 by former Navy SEAL and current K9 trainer Mike Ritland on YouTube. Gallagher openly discussed topics including his career, the raid upon his home, pre-trial confinement, legal proceedings, acquittal, retirement, and his life and family.
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Richardson also stripped Navy prosecutors of the authority to bring perjury charges against Petty Officer First Class Corey Scott...
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