NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — Testimony in the military trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher earlier this week revealed that an active-duty member of SEAL Team 6 had disparaged the judge overseeing the trial and said many of his colleagues in the elite unit did not care about killing civilians.
While under cross examination on Wednesday morning, former Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Dylan Dille was questioned at length about a private WhatsApp group chat he and his fellow SEALs used to pass along information within their unit as well as news about the Gallagher case.
In the thread named "The Sewing Circle," the SEALs — who were apparently concerned with war crimes allegedly committed by Gallagher — tried to distinguish themselves as their own "Brotherhood" in contrast to what supporters of Gallagher have called the "Real Brotherhood."
In his testimony, Dille said "there's a clear line in the sand" between both camps of current and former SEALs on what is acceptable behavior in combat.
"It ain't over until we're sitting on a front porch with six shooters and the 'Real Brotherhood' comes knocking," Dille wrote in one text message. "I look forward to laying down some lead again on that occasion."
Defense attorney Tim Parlatore then asked, "Who is the "Real Brotherhood?"
"People who are okay with war crimes," Dille said. He went on to describe them as an "angry mob" of the entire conservative media and former SEALs. Dille and other SEAL witnesses have said in testimony that they have received online threats.
Parlatore then brought up text messages in the thread sent by SO1 Dalton Tolbert, who was a sniper for SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon during their 2017 Iraq deployment. Gallagher has been accused of murdering a wounded ISIS fighter and using his sniper rifle to indiscriminately fire on noncombatants.
Did [Tolbert] say he "worked with a bunch of people who don't care about killing civilians?" Parlatore asked.
Dille said yes.
"Where does he work?" Parlatore continued.
Dille, clearly uncomfortable before responding, then said, "Development Group."
Naval Special Warfare Development Group is the name of the classified unit of SEALs commonly referred to as SEAL Team 6.
At that point, the judge, Capt. Aaron Rugh, shuffled members of the jury and Dille out of the courtroom and had a private discussion with Parlatore and the prosecutor.
Once court resumed with the jury present, Parlatore then asked whether Tolbert had ever said in text messages that he "was going to burn this motherfucking court room to the ground," a reference to where the trial was taking place at Naval Base San Diego.
"Yes," Dille said.
Parlatore also said Tolbert had disparaged defense attorneys and the judge in text messages, though he did not go into specifics.
However, a screenshot of a text message thread obtained by Task & Purpose showed that Tolbert had referred to Rugh as "this shady ass judge."
According to a source familiar with the matter, Tolbert also wrote in the text message thread, "what a fucking joke. Somebody fire this pussy ass fucking judge. Who's fucking courtroom is this? Time to man the fuck up fags."
"If the motherfucking courthouse burned down, I did it," Tolbert wrote, according to the source. "Then they can go fuck themselves with the pussy footing bullshit."
In his testimony, Dille told Parlatore he took the supposed threat against the courtroom as a joke.
Tolbert is expected to testify on Friday.
Naval Special Warfare officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment by deadline.