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Prosecutors violated fair trial rights of SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher, Judge says
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The military judge presiding over the court-martial of a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with war crimes said on Friday prosecutors who electronically tracked email communications of defense lawyers without a warrant violated the accused's right to a fair trial.
The finding came near the end of a two-day hearing that wrapped up just 10 days before Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher is due to stand trial in a case that has drawn the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Gallagher is charged with murdering a helpless, wounded Islamic State fighter in his custody, and with two counts of attempted murder in the wounding of two unarmed civilians, a schoolgirl and elderly man, shot from a sniper's perch.
The charges stem from Gallagher's deployment as a platoon leader to Iraq's northern city of Mosul, in 2017.
He has pleaded not guilty to those and other charges, including obstructing justice. If convicted, the decorated career combat veteran could face life in prison.
Gallagher says he was wrongly accused and that fellow SEAL team members testifying against him, several under grants of immunity, are disgruntled subordinates who fabricated allegations to force him from command.
His defense team has filed motions seeking either to dismiss the charges altogether, or remove the lead prosecutor from the case, on grounds of alleged misconduct by the prosecutor and agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
The defense specifically has accused Navy lawyers of conducting illegal surveillance of defense attorneys and news media using electronic tracking software secretly embedded in emails sent to the defense.
In court, prosecutors have said the email "auditing tools" they used were designed merely to detect the flow of emails without revealing their content, and were aimed at pinpointing the source of leaks from case files sealed by the judge.
The judge, Navy Captain Aaron Rugh, adjourned the hearing without ruling yet on the defense motions. But Rugh said he had already found the prosecution's conduct amounted to a violation of the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial under the U.S. constitution.
Even if the judge refuses to dismiss the case, removing the lead prosecutor, Navy Commander Christopher Czaplak, would probably result in a lengthy delay.
A ruling on the motions could come any time, and momentum seemed to be moving the favor of the defense.
At the end of Thursday's proceedings, the judge unexpectedly ordered Gallagher released from base confinement at a nearby military hospital center in San Diego while he awaits trial.
He was transferred there from a military brig at a Marine Corps air station in California in March at the direction of Trump, who cited Gallagher's "past service to our country."
Trump last Friday said he was considering pardons for a number of service members accused of war crimes, and Gallagher's case is widely believed to be one of the cases under review.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles)
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.