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Judge removes lead prosecutor in case against Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher
Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh has removed the lead prosecutor in the war crimes trial against Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher days after he said the government had violated Gallagher's right to a fair trial.
Navy Cmdr. Chris Czaplak was dismissed from the prosecution team on Monday, threatening to further derail the government's case against Gallagher, who has been accused of murdering a wounded and unarmed ISIS fighter and indiscriminately firing at innocent civilians during the 2017 Battle of Mosul.
The removal of Czaplak came in response to a defense motion last month seeking the ouster of the prosecution team. Defense attorneys sought relief after it was learned that an NCIS investigation into media leaks in the case had involved Czaplak sending emails to Gallagher's attorneys and a Navy Times reporter without obtaining a warrant. The emails had some kind of tracking software hidden in Czaplak's signature block.
"The court concludes that the matter related to Cmdr. Czaplak's participation in the NCIS operation may reasonably create a conflict requiring his withdrawal under due process," Rugh said in his Monday ruling.
"While it is not within the purview of this court to conclude whether the actions of a trial counsel violated the rules of professional responsibility, the court must determine whether the fear of or potential danger of a professional responsibility complaint and follow up investigation is sufficient to create such a conflict."
Rugh added: "Conceding that this area remains both nuanced and unresolved under the ethical rules, still the court concludes that the danger of investigation is sufficiently real that any trial counsel so situated might be motivated by factors unrelated to his position as trial counsel."
Rugh granted the defense motion to have Czaplak removed, but declined to remove Marine Lt. Conor McMahon, who was also on the prosecution team. However, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday that McMahon had already been directed off the case by his unit last week.
"Capt McMahon has been directed off of the case and this decision was made due to no adverse conduct of his own," a Marine spokesman told the Union-Tribune.
"The Navy is complying with the judge's order," Brian O'Rourke, a Navy spokesman, told Task & Purpose. "The senior trial counsel will be replaced by a qualified Navy attorney. Chief Petty Officer Gallagher is entitled to a fair trial and the Nav is committed to upholding that principle."
The Monday ruling is the latest in a string of wins for Gallagher's defense team: In addition to the judge ruling that the SEAL Chief's constitutional rights were violated by the email tracking issue, he also ordered Gallagher released from pretrial confinement last week.
Czaplak is also the lead prosecutor in a related case against Navy Lt. Jacob Portier, Gallagher's platoon leader. It was not clear on Monday whether he would be dismissed from that case, which is being overseen by a different judge.
The trial is still scheduled to begin on June 10, O'Rourke said.
The U.S. military's withdrawal from northeast Syria is looking more like Dunkirk every day.
On Wednesday, the U.S. military had to call in an airstrike on one of its own ammunition dumps in northern Syria because the cargo trucks required to safely remove the ammo are needed elsewhere to support the withdrawal, Task & Purpose has learned.
Retired two-star Navy. Adm. Joe Sestak is the highest ranking — and perhaps, least known — veteran who is trying to clinch the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
Sestak has decades of military experience, but he is not getting nearly as much media attention as fellow veterans Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Another veteran, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has dropped out of the race.
After preliminary fitness test scores leaked in September, many have voiced concerns about how women would fare in the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
The scores — which accounted for 11 of the 63 battalions that the ACFT was tested on last year — showed an overall failure rate of 84% for women, and a 70% pass rate for men.
But Army leaders aren't concerned about this in the slightest.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Three U.S. diplomats have been removed from a train and briefly questioned by Russian authorities in the sensitive Arctic shipyard city of Severodvinsk, near the site of a mysterious explosion in August that killed five nuclear workers.
Russia's Interfax news agency reported on October 16 that the diplomats were taken off the train that runs between Severodvinsk and Nyonoksa around 6 p.m. on October 14.
The U.S. Coast Guard had ordered the owner of an illegal 45-foot charter boat, named "Sea You Twerk," to stop operating.
He didn't, the Coast Guard said.
Now, Dallas Lad, 38, will serve 30 days in federal prison, a judge ruled Friday. When he is released, Ladd of Miami Beach, who pleaded guilty, will not be able to own or go on a boat for three years.