Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher dodged the most serious charges the Navy threw at him during his court martial, but his final sentence could be far worse than what the jury originally handed down.
If the convening authority approves the jury's sentence of four months' confinement and a reduction in rank from E7 to E6, Gallagher will be busted down to the rank of E1, according to Navy officials.
According to Navy regulations, the service requires anyone confined for over three months to be reduced to the lowest enlisted pay grade.
“Automatic reduction in pay grade is governed by Article 58a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and regulations approved by the Secretary of the Navy contained in the Manual of the Judge Advocate General,” Lt. Sam Boyle, a Navy spokesman, told Task & Purpose.
“The applicable provisions provide for automatic reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade in a case in which the sentence, as approved by the convening authority, includes confinement in excess of 90 days.”
This means that Gallagher's sentence of four months in the brig — despite its status as 'time served' since Gallagher was confined prior to trial — has put his post-trial rank in jeopardy.
The time confined also pushes back his retirement eligibility date, according to Tim Parlatore, one of Gallagher's attorneys.
“I don't think that they appreciate the collateral consequences of what they did,” Parlatore told Task & Purpose of the jury's sentence.
Gallagher was found guilty earlier this month on just a single charge of unlawfully posing with a human corpse over photos he took with the body of an ISIS fighter along with other SEALs in his platoon.
He was found not guilty of the premeditated murder of a wounded ISIS fighter and attempted premeditated murder of unarmed civilians.
Whether the original sentence is carried out or reduced is now up to the convening authority, Adm. Bette Bolivar, who has up to four months to act, according to Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O'Rourke.
Bolivar can approve the sentence or offer clemency, which is what Gallagher's attorneys are banking on.
Parlatore said he will be requesting Bolivar disapprove the sentence and instead bring the charge down to non-judicial punishment level.
As part of this effort, Parlatore has been crowd-sourcing similar cases of service members being punished at NJP for taking photos with corpses.
He told Task & Purpose he has heard from at least 25 people offering to help.