President Donald Trump said Saturday morning in a tweet that Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher will be moved to “less restrictive confinement” after a group of 40 lawmakers sent a letter urging him to be freed from pre-trial confinement.
Gallagher, a 19-year SEAL accused of war crimes during the 2017 Battle of Mosul, “will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court,” Trump tweeted. “Process should move soon.”
Attorneys for Gallagher asked that he be released from pretrial confinement in January, which was denied. But now that the president has intervened, Phil Stackhouse, a civilian attorney for Gallagher, told Task & Purpose he believes his client will be released sometime this weekend.
As Stackhouse explained, there isn't any “less restrictive confinement” at the Miramar Brig facility where Gallagher is being held, so he will mostly likely be released to his family and placed under some restrictions, such as being required to check-in by phone and to have no contact with witnesses in the case.
“While I don't know timelines affirmatively, the confinement facility is staffed 24 hours a day and so is Eddie's command,” Stackhouse said. “One would hope that when a directive has been issued by the President it would happen quickly, so our anticipation is that it will happen today or tomorrow.”
A spokesman for Navy Region Southwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Task & Purpose.
NCIS Agent Joe Warpinski, who has been investigating Gallagher's case since April, said during Gallagher's Article 32 hearing in November that he had taken sworn testimony from nine members of Gallagher's unit, SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon. According to Warpinski, the platoon was operating in Mosul alongside the Iraqi Emergency Response Division when the alleged murder occurred.
The Iraqis called in an airstrike on a building and then subsequently captured a wounded ISIS fighter, who Warpinski approximated to be about 15 years old. After the fighter was taken prisoner — and briefly interviewed by an Iraqi journalist — he was turned over to the SEALs at their compound and medics began treating him, including Gallagher.
Gallagher briefly left as other SEALs began to help with medical treatment of the fighter, who was having trouble breathing and was apparently hit with shrapnel in the left leg. But one other SEAL medic, C.S. (witnesses were reduced to initials in the proceedings to shield them from potentially being placed on so-called “ISIS kill lists“) told NCIS he believed he had just stabilized the fighter before Gallagher “walked up without saying anything at all” and started stabbing him.
C.S. told investigators it left him in “complete disbelief.”
Afterward, according to the charges, Gallagher posed next to the body and took pictures, in addition to carrying out his reenlistment ceremony.
Since his arrest, Gallagher's supporters have taken to social networks and the media to make their case that he did not do what he has been accused of. So far, the government has introduced hundreds of pages of witness testimony, text messages, and photographs into evidence.
Gallagher has been in pretrial custody since Sep. 11, 2018.