The court-martial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher began on Friday.
All in all, Chief Gallagher is charged with four different violations of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). More specifically, the SEAL is accused of murdering a captured teenage ISIS fighter by stabbing him in the neck and body, shooting at unarmed civilians, obstructing justice by encouraging his SEAL platoon members not to disclose his actions on three separate occasions, and wrongfully using a dead ISIS fighter to reenlist, and finally, abusing banned controlled substances.
The process began in early September with the arrest of Chief Gallagher followed by an Article 32 hearing held by the Navy in October. The hearing, which determines whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an individual, is a requirement before a general court-martial. The hearing was completed in mid-November. Rear Adm. Yancy Lindsey, commander of Navy Region Southwest and the officer in charge, has now determined that there is indeed sufficient evidence for a court-martial.
The Navy is using cellphone images to support its claims. The images appear to show Chief Gallagher grasping the head of the dead ISIS fighter during his reenlistment ceremony. According to San Diego NBC 7, the only news outlet allowed to be present during the first day of the court-martial, Navy prosecutors also have evidence that shows Chief Gallagher trying to bribe his teammates to remain silent over his actions.
At the time of the initial investigation, the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) refused to comment. Commander Tamara Lawrence, a spokesperson of the NSWC, had said that the “Naval Special Warfare does not comment on specifics of an ongoing investigation in order to preserve its integrity, however all credible allegations of criminal activity are taken extremely seriously and thoroughly investigated.”
In defense of Chief Gallagher, his attorney Phil Stackhouse said, “What we’ve asked for and what we’re going to continue to ask for is that Eddie is judged by a jury of his peers so that there are special operators, both officers and enlisted sailors, that are on this court-martial panel that’s going to hear the evidence because of the unique nature of allegations arising in a combat zone.”
Alongside Chief Gallagher, another SEAL is facing war crime charges. As the leader of A platoon of SEAL Team 7 and the ranking officer on the ground, Lt. Jacob “Jake” Portier is accused of covering up another of Chief Gallagher’s war crimes.
Since his arrest, Chief Gallagher has been confined in the San Diego Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar.
Naval Special Warfare Group ONE is overseeing the procedure. Chief Gallagher has decided to plead not guilty. If convicted, the SEAL is facing a sentence of life in prison.