SAN DIEGO – Attorneys for Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher appeared confident Wednesday after they began presenting their case in Gallagher's war crimes court martial.
Walking out of court during a break, Gallagher's legal team told reporters that their case started off on a good note.
"I told [prosecutors] weeks before this trial started, the worst thing they could do for the reputation for the Navy, JAG Corps and NCIS is to give us two weeks on the world stage to expose every incompetent mistake, and every bad move," said Tim Parlatore, Gallagher’s lead attorney.
The final witness of the day, Petty Officer Josh Graffam, testified that he was a sniper spotter who often worked with Gallagher in Iraq. Using binoculars, he looked for targets and watched as snipers took them out.
Gallagher is accused of shooting at civilians on at least two different occasions. A SEAL from Gallagher’s platoon testified earlier in the trial that Gallagher shot and hit an old man wearing white clothes on Father’s Day in 2017.
Graffam said he spoke to that Navy SEAL on the very same day but said he remembers the events differently. Graffan agreed that the man was older, but the spotter said he appeared to be a member of ISIS. He said he was wearing black clothing and had a gun.
"I, on the other hand, was confident the right shot was taken," he said in court Wednesday. He went on to say that he never saw Gallagher shoot at a target that he shouldn’t have.
But another witness the defense team called to the stand seemed to back up some of the prosecution’s claims. Master Chief Brian Alazzawi said Wednesday that when Gallagher’s platoon came back from deployment, he thought Gallagher and his men were “rock stars" and that they appeared to be "one of the closest teams he had ever seen." But he said that once the team returned stateside from their deployment in Iraq, he noticed many of the SEALs seemed depressed. He said he approached Chief Miller, one of the team members, to ask how the deployment went, and was told "horrible."
Initially, Miller told Allazzawi, “Chief Gallagher should not lead.” He said that a Silver Star awarded to Gallagher should be taken away. When Alazzawi asked why, Miller told him that Gallagher had stolen food from his men. Miller added additional allegations against Gallagher when he was told that stealing food wasn't enough to get Gallagher demoted, Allazzawi testified. Finally, Miller claimed that Gallagher stabbed a wounded ISIS prisoner to death, Allazzawi said.
"If what Craig Miller was saying was the truth, if he really had a complaint against Chief Gallagher that was worthy of having him removed, you’d lead with that," Parlatore said outside court.