SAN DIEGO – After nearly two weeks of witness testimony, defense testimony against Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher came to an end Friday with Lieutenant Commander Robert Breisch taking the stand.
"Everything in this trial went as well or better than we possibly could have expected," said Gallagher's attorney. Tim Parlatore.
The defense called Breisch to the stand after securing permission to grant the commander immunity.
Breisch said he first noticed something was wrong with Gallagher's SEALs six months after they returned home from their deployment to Iraq. According to Breisch, Chief Craig Miller learned that Gallagher was going to be promoted to Master Chief and was going to receive a Silver Star, the military's third-highest medal for valor in combat. Breisch said Miller had told him that the award was based on lies and that he couldn't in good conscience allow Gallagher to get the award.
Breisch said when he asked why, Miller alleged that Gallagher had stolen food from care packages in the platoon. Breisch said he told Miller that wasn’t enough to warrant an investigation. He said weeks later, Miller approached him again, this time with accusations that Gallagher used dangerous war tactics and used other SEALS as bait in combat. Breisch said that still wasn’t enough.
He said over the course of five months, there wasn’t a week that went by where at least one SEAL came to him with a complaint or allegation against Gallagher. Each time, Breisch told them it wasn’t enough. He said if there was a report of a war crime, like an allegation that Gallagher shot women or children, then he could pursue an investigation.
Breisch said it took eleven months before Miller came to him with the final allegation.
“[He] blurted and vomited it out,” Breisch said of Miller. "He said, 'Eddie stabbed a prisoner.'"
Breisch testified that he responded by saying, “There it is. That’s what I’ve wanted to hear from you all along.”
Under clarification, the Lt. Commander said it seemed like Miller "was playing a game" and backed his way into a scenario that would launch an investigation. But under cross examination, the prosecution pointed out that Briesch and Gallagher were friends and had known each other for 10 years.
The prosecution asked him, “You didn’t want to see him go to jail?”
He replied, “No.”
Prosecutors followed up by asking, “You don’t want him to be found guilty?”
He replied, “I want the truth to come out.”
Attorneys on both sides are expected to deliver closing arguments on Monday before putting the decision in the hands of the jury.