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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)
At least one Air Force base is on the lookout for a sinister new threat: angry men who can't get laid.
Personnel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland were recently treated to a threat brief regarding an "increase in nationwide activity" by self-described "incels," members of an online subculture of "involuntary celibacy" who adopt an ideology of misogyny, mistrust of women, and violence in response to their failed attempts at romantic relationships.
The brief was first made public via a screenshot posted to the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page on Tuesday. An Air Force spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the screenshot to Task & Purpose.
"The screenshot was taken from a Joint Base Andrews Intel brief created following basic threat analysis on an increase in nationwide activity by the group," 11th Wing spokesman Aletha Frost told Task & Purpose in an email.
A Navy installation blasted 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at high volume for 3 days straight, scaring the crap out of its neighbors
From Long Beach to Huntington Beach, residents were greeted Saturday, June 15, at precisely 8 a.m. with "The Star-Spangled Banner." Then 12 hours later, the "Retreat" bugle call bellowed throughout Seal Beach and beyond.
At first, people wondered if the booming sound paid tribute to Flag Day, June 14. Seal Beach neighbors bordering Los Alamitos assumed the music was coming from the nearby Joint Forces Training Base.
But then it happened again Sunday. And Monday. Folks took to the Nextdoor social media app seeking an answer to the mystery.
Key witness says Eddie Gallagher stabbed wounded ISIS fighter in the neck but does not remember specifics
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The main thing to remember about Navy SEAL Chief Craig Miller's testimony on Wednesday is that he didn't seem to remember a lot.
Miller, considered a key witness in the trial of Chief Eddie Gallagher, testified that he saw his former platoon chief stab the wounded ISIS fighter but was unable to recall a number of details surrounding that event. Gallagher is accused of murdering the wounded fighter and separately firing on innocent civilians during a deployment to Mosul, Iraq in 2017. He has pleaded not guilty.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — An enlisted Navy SEAL sniper testified on Wednesday that Chief Eddie Gallagher told his platoon prior to their deployment that if they ever captured a wounded fighter, their medics knew "what to do to nurse them to death."
In early morning testimony, former Special Operator 1st Class Dylan Dille told a packed courtroom that he had heard the phrase during unit training before the men of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon deployed to Mosul, Iraq in 2017.
Navy SEAL under investigation for allegedly manipulating (and hitting on) the widow of the Green Beret he helped kill
A Navy SEAL sentenced to one year in prison for the death of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar is under investigation for allegedly flirting with Melgar's widow while using a false name and trying to persuade her that he and another SEAL accused of killing her husband were "really good guys," according to the Washington Post.