Following a 10-month legal saga, Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher was found not guilty for the murder of an Islamic State fighter during a 2017 deployment to Iraq.
The jury, however, did find Chief Gallagher guilty of inappropriately posing with a dead fighter for a photograph. For this, the SEAL received a four-month prison sentence, a reduction in rank from chief petty officer (E-7) to petty officer 1st class (E-6), and a subsequent reduction in salary and pension. Given the fact that Chief Gallagher has already spent more than 200 days in pretrial confinement, his prison sentenced is automatically negated.
The jury was most likely comprised of predominately United States Marine Corps officers with combat experience.
According to the Navy Times, Chief Gallagher was intentionally targeted by his subordinate SEALs of Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7, who said they didn’t like his leadership style. Alongside the murder accusations, a number of Alpha Platoon SEALs had also accused Chief Gallagher of shooting two civilians with a sniper rifle. The jury found these charges to be unsubstantiated.
Chief Gallagher had pleaded not guilty to both the murder and attempted murder charges related to the death of an underage Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017.
The last witness to testify indicated that the whole affair was triggered by a SEAL captain’s (O-6) dislike for Chief Gallagher. Lieutenant Commander Robert Briesch told the court that the unnamed SEAL officer had a personal grudge against the accused, and it was he who had made the original complaint that resulted in the official investigation. Lt. Commander Briesch did admit being a close friend of Chief Gallagher’s for approximately 10 years, having served with him on numerous combat deployments overseas.
Timothy Parlatore, a member of Chief Gallagher’s legal team, said to the Navy Times, “The jury found him not guilty of the murder, not guilty of the stabbing, not guilty of the shootings, not guilty of all those things. They did find him guilty of taking a photograph with a dead terrorist, which we admitted from the beginning he was in that photograph.”
Although Chief Gallagher was found not guilty, no one can deny that the Naval Special Warfare community has some introspection to do.