Lawyers for former Navy SEAL Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher have told the Navy's top officer that “no further punishment is necessary” since their client already lost a promotion, Silver Star award, a coveted instructor post, medical treatment for traumatic brain injury, and his own freedom after being incarcerated for more than double the maximum punishment for the one crime he was found guilty of at court-martial, according to a letter requesting clemency that was submitted on Oct. 1.
Carl Prine at Navy Times first reported on the contents of the letter to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, which refers to Gallagher as “Chief,” although he was reduced in rank to Special Warfare Operator 1st Class soon after trial.
“Chief Gallagher has devoted his entire adult life to serving our country and putting himself in harms way to keep us safe. He has eight combat deployments and numerous medals. He has endured physical damage amounting to 18 separate documented incidents of brain injuries,” reads the letter, which was obtained by Task & Purpose.
“Given this history, we submit that the suffering inflicted on Chief Gallagher and his family as a result of this case far exceeds what is appropriate for a charge of posing for a photo with a dead terrorist.”
Gallagher was cleared of the most serious charges of murder and attempted murder at his court martial in July, and was only found guilty on a single charge of unlawfully posing with a human casualty, which got him a sentence of four months' confinement and reduction in rank to E6. The court martial has not been finalized yet, since it's up to the convening authority to approve or modify the sentence.
“We expect a decision to be made by Adm. Gilday by the end of October,” Cmdr. Nate Christenson, a Navy spokesman, told Task & Purpose in an emailed statement.
The sole photo charge, Gallagher's attorneys argue, would lead to a “disproportionate” punishment for the 20-year SEAL, who stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars from his retirement and brand him a convicted felon for an act that other members of his platoon did right alongside him.
Gallagher is just one of “thousands” of service members who have posed with an enemy corpse in combat, according to the letter, yet he is the “only American service member in history to ever receive a General Court-Martial conviction, absent a finding of guilty for a more serious charge.”
Members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon pose with the deceased ISIS fighter.
As part of their argument, the attorneys also included photos shown during the trial, in which other members of Gallagher's platoon posed with the body at their compound in Iraq, to include a commissioned officer.
“As was revealed during Chief Gallagher's trial, substantially all of these service members also took individual photos with the terrorist,” the letter says. “Investigators, however, never searched for the photos taken by other members of the platoon, and Chief Gallagher was the only participant in this photo, or any other photos, charged with a crime.”
In addition, defense attorneys claim a “long-standing” Navy custom says that junior sailors cannot “receive more severe punishment than a senior for offenses arising out of the same incident,” they write. In this case, they argue, Gallagher is being punished for posing for photos while his superior officer, Lt. Thomas MacNeill, isn't being punished at all for posing with the body right alongside him.
“LT MacNeil has received no punishment whatsoever for his conduct, either for posing with the terrorist, or for regularly consuming alcohol with the junior enlisted SEALs in Iraq,” the letter says. According to his testimony at trial, MacNeill said he possessed a platoon video with a number of photos with casualties in it that he admitted was “inappropriate.”
The letter goes on to argue that the prosecution committed “misconduct” before and during the trial, including what defense attorneys called an “extreme measure of targeting defense counsel through an illegal email tracker.” As the letter states, the Navy's lead prosecutor was removed from the case over the bungled spying operation, which was meant to ferret out media leaks.
“We certainly hope and trust that the CNO will review this and justice will finally be done,” Tim Parlatore, one of Gallagher's attorneys, told Task & Purpose. “I'd like [Gallagher] to retire as a chief petty officer. I'd like him to have the full pension that he's earned, and that's it.”
You can read the entire letter below: