SAN DIEGO — The Navy SEAL who raised nearly $750,000 from a community of supporters to successfully fight war crimes charges in a San Diego court-martial is again asking for the public's help for one more round with the Navy.
Chief Eddie Gallagher, through an attorney, is asking the public to help him persuade a Navy admiral to reduce his jury-imposed punishment for posing with the body of a dead Islamic State fighter in 2017.
Specifically, he's looking for other service members who have received punishment for taking photos with dead enemy combatants — and received a lesser sentence.
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.
Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, the military judge in the case, decided to release Gallagher at the end of a hearing on Thursday, said Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O'Rourke. Gallagher's trial is expected to begin in about two weeks.
The Navy attempted to use tracking software to spy on civilian and military defense attorneys for two Navy SEALs charged in connection with the death of an Islamic State fighter and a journalist covering the cases, one of the SEAL's attorneys said on Monday.
"You can't do this without a warrant," said Timothy Parlatore, who represents Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher. "There's a big difference between what a marketing firm can do to check the demographics of its customer base and what the government can do to directly target and track the email communications of a private citizen."
In total, 13 people received an email on May 8 from Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak that included an image that, if opened, would have allowed the Navy to see with whom they communicated, Parlatore told Task & Purpose on Monday.
President Donald Trump's affection for the military runs so deep that he has repeatedly served as an advocate for service members accused or convicted of murder.
Not only has he pardoned a former Army lieutenant who was convicted of killing an Iraq detainee, the president has also voiced support for two other service members accused of murder while their cases are still pending.
On May 6, the president pardoned Michael Behenna, who had served prison time after being convicted of killing an Iraqi detainee in 2008. Oklahoma's attorney general had requested a pardon for Behenna last year, arguing that prosecutors had withheld evidence supporting Behenna's claim that he killed the detainee in self-defense, according to the Associated Press.
While the president acted within his Constitutional powers, he also risks creating the impression that the United States condones war crimes, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham, a former military attorney who now teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles.
"Killing a prisoner you've stripped naked and threatened with a gun ain't a moral or lawful act: It's murder," VanLandingham told Task & Purpose. "One pardon of such a war crime isn't a pattern, and hopefully such pardon will be the only such condonation of a war crime that many, many other soldiers and Marines and sailors in Behanna's shoes had greater moral courage and integrity not to commit."