The U.S. Navy SEAL Chief accused of war crimes during the Battle of Mosul will remain in a jail after a military judge denied his attorneys' motion to have him released from pretrial confinement on Thursday.
Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher was arrested Sep. 11, 2018 on accusations that he stabbed and killed a wounded ISIS fighter and shot at unarmed civilians during his 2017 deployment with SEAL Team 7.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised due to the low legal burden by the government refusing to put a witness on the stand, and the defense being denied the right to call any witnesses to the allegations,” Philip Stackhouse, Gallagher's civilian attorney, told Task & Purpose in a statement.
Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O'Rourke confirmed the military judge, Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, had denied Gallagher's request to be released from pretrial confinement. Rugh made no other rulings on Thursday.
Gallagher's court-martial is slated to begin on Feb. 19, O'Rourke told Task & Purpose on Friday.
NCIS Agent Joe Warpinski, who has been investigating the case since April, said during Gallagher's Article 32 hearing that he had taken sworn testimony from 9 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.
Stackhouse had asked the judge to release Gallagher prior to his trial. 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.
“These accusations would be laughable — and were to him and our family — until for some crazy reason the Navy took them seriously,” the Chief's brother, Sean Gallagher, wrote in an op-ed for Newsweek. “Multiple — and I quite literally mean multiple — of Eddie's teammates on his last deployment deny all of what has been said about him. My brother will have a team of witnesses come to his side to refute all of these false charges. Even the Iraqi General serving with Eddie's platoon denies that the alleged events took place.”
Gallagher is being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Miramar, California. “I'm innocent,” Gallagher said, in a short video posted to his wife's Instagram.
He has been in pretrial custody since Sept. 11, 2018, his wife Andrea told Task & Purpose on Friday. His family is “disappointed, but not surprised” by Rugh's decision not to release him, she said.
“The court recognized Eddie's record of excellent service as evidenced by the testimony of several senior, current and former SEAL Team members,” Andrea Gallagher said. “The court also acknowledged Eddie's strong support network of family, friends, and well-wishers. However, it was not enough when the complaining witnesses refused to be questioned by the defense and the Government refused to bring them to court.
“At trial, scheduled for February 19, 2019, Eddie will finally have the Constitutional right to confront his accusers and he eagerly awaits that opportunity.”
UPDATE: This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Jan. 11 with Andrea Gallagher's comments.