Opening statements slated for trial of Navy SEAL accused of murder in Iraq

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday at the trial of a Navy SEAL accused of fatally stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS fighter in Iraq and shooting at Iraqi civilians.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 40, faces life in prison if convicted of murdering the teen in May 2017, as well as shooting a male and female civilian, and shooting at an unknown number of other civilians later that year in Mosul, Iraq.

The highly decorated veteran is also accused of posing with the teen’s body in a photograph, while he and other SEALs held a reenlistment ceremony while standing over the body. Navy prosecutors estimate that the ISIS fighter was about 15 years old.

Prosecutors also allege that Gallagher tried to bribe fellow SEALs not to talk about the incident to NCIS investigators.

Gallagher’s defense team says the allegations come from a group of disgruntled subordinates who felt their platoon commander was too tough on them. His attorney, Timothy Parlatore, alleged in a television interview that Gallagher’s accusers are lying.

“We intend to annihilate the government’s case,” Parlatore said.

A statement released over the weekend by Gallagher’s defense team called the allegations “a smear campaign full of lies.”

The trial has also been dogged by allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, with the trial judge finding that Navy prosecutors used tracking software to spy on the defense team’s email accounts.

The judge, Capt. Aaron Rugh, removed Cmdr. Chris Czaplak from the case just before the trial was set to begin, ruling the prosecution sent emails to the defense and a Navy Times reporter that were embedded with code that would track the recipients’ email activity. Cmdr. Jeffrey Pietrzyk has replaced Czaplak.

The judge also ordered that Gallagher be released from custody due to violations of his Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights and reduced the maximum possible sentence of life without parole to life with the possibility of parole.

Gallagher’s defense team unsuccessfully sought to have the case thrown out following the email allegations.

Gallagher — a 19-year Navy veteran — has received public support from President Donald Trump, who commented in a social media post earlier this year that Gallagher should be moved to less restrictive confinement and has hinted at pardoning him.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, has also advocated pardoning Gallagher and stated publicly that he also posed with an enemy combatant’s corpse during his time in the Marines.

RELATED STORY: Sean Gallagher talks about a letter he wrote to his brother Eddie Gallagher before the trial began

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