SAN DIEGO – A local Navy SEAL accused of murdering a wounded prisoner in Iraq in 2017 received strong support from Rep. Duncan Hunter Friday.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will be arraigned at Naval Base San Diego Friday afternoon. Among the charges faced by Gallagher are stabbing and murdering a wounded person, shooting at noncombatants, posing for a photo and performing his re-enlistment ceremony next to a dead body, according to charge sheet from November.
Early Friday, Gallagher’s lawyer requested his trial date be moved to February 19, originally scheduled for April. He also asked to have Gallagher released from the brig ahead of his trial.
Hunter (R-Alpine), who served as a Marine, issued a statement after reviewing Gallagher's case.
“I have personally reviewed Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Gallagher’s case thoroughly and my staff has met with his family and remained in consistent communication. Chief Gallagher stands accused of murder in the killing of a verified ISIS combatant in a warzone based on inconsistent testimony and without any physical evidence. It is important to remember that this ISIS combatant was engaged in an extensive firefight with Chief Gallagher’s team and was already significantly injured when captured. No credible evidence has been provided that this ISIS fighter was murdered as opposed to dying from his terrorist actions."
"I have also received reports that Chief Gallagher is being confined to the brig where, allegedly, he has not been provided with quality access to medical care, mental health services or legal representation. I am reviewing this situation further. If true, it is completely unacceptable and, without hesitation, I will introduce legislation to ensure this situation is not repeated. South American criminal illegal aliens are provided with better access to legal representation than our nation’s elite warriors because bureaucratic lawyers in the Navy justice system see this situation as an opportunity to make their name and advance their career."
"Chief Gallagher honorably served our nation on multiple combat deployments both as a Corpsman with the Marine Corps and as a SEAL. Those who have served with him in combat describe him as nothing less than an American hero. I am significantly concerned that this is another example of the over-aggressiveness of the Navy JAG Corp showing its bias against our warfighters. Due to verifiable political nature of the Navy’s justice system, I believe that Chief Gallagher’s matter needs to be taken away from the Navy and President Trump himself needs to personally review and dismiss this case, taking an American hero out of a prison cell and back on the front lines where he belongs.”
Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, public affairs officer with the Naval Special Warfare Command, previously said the Navy was taking the allegations seriously.
"We train and operate in dynamic, complex and ambiguous environments and our operators are empowered and trusted to independently make difficult decisions during missions," Lawrence said in a statement.
"They have consistently proven that their empowerment and trust is warranted. Allegations that indicate otherwise are, and will continue to be, investigated by the appropriate military and law enforcement authorities."
The charge sheet said that Gallagher "did ... with premeditation, murder a wounded male person" under his care by "stabbing him in the neck and body with a knife" while battling ISIS in Mosul in May 2017.
He is charged with shooting at a man and woman noncombatant near Mosul in June and July of 2017, respectively.
Gallagher is also charged with obstruction of justice for "attempting to discourage members of his platoon from reporting his actions while in Iraq" when he and his unit were back in San Diego.
The Navy has charged Gallagher with "wrongfully" posing for an unofficial picture "with a human casualty" and wrongfully completing his reenlistment ceremony next to a human casualty.
He was also charged with flying a drone over a human casualty and wrongfully possessing and using the painkiller tramadol hydrochloride, a controlled substance, while in Iraq and back in San Diego.