SAN DIEGO — Charges were dismissed Thursday against a Navy SEAL accused of covering up war crimes allegedly committed by fellow SEAL Edward Gallagher, who was cleared of murder and attempted murder charges by a military jury in San Diego last month.
Lt. Jacob Portier was slated to go to trial next month on charges that included dereliction of duty, but a Navy statement issued Thursday said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson had thrown out the case.
Portier was charged with allegedly destroying evidence and failing to report Gallagher, who was accused of fatally stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS fighter, as well as indiscriminately shooting Iraqi civilians in Mosul.
Gallagher, 40, was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced, with the seven-man jury only convicting him of posing for a picture with the dead combatant’s body. The conviction resulted in a four-month prison sentence, which he’d already served, in addition to a demotion of rank and reduction in pay.
Richardson also stripped Navy prosecutors of the authority to bring perjury charges against Petty Officer First Class Corey Scott, who testified at Gallagher’s trial that he had suffocated the fighter after Gallagher stabbed him. Scott said he held down the boy’s breathing tube because he did not want him to suffer or be tortured by Iraqis.
The surprise testimony led to rumblings that Scott could be prosecuted, but Thursday’s statement from the Navy indicates that avenue has been closed.
The dismissal comes one day after President Donald Trump announced he was rescinding awards given to some of the Navy prosecutors who brought the case against Gallagher. Three prosecutors in the case received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for performing “above their normal duties,” according to military publication Task & Purpose.
“The Prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (who I released from solitary confinement so he could fight his case properly), were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal,” Trump said in a tweet. “Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect … to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion. I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards … I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family!”
In rescinding the awards, Trump cited allegations of misconduct brought against the Navy prosecutors, who allegedly used tracking software to spy on the defense team’s email accounts.
Capt. Aaron Rugh, the judge overseeing Gallagher’s court martial, ordered that Gallagher be released from custody as a result of those findings and reduced the maximum possible sentence of life without parole to life with the possibility of parole.
The former lead prosecutor, Cmdr. Chris Czaplak, was also removed from the case just weeks before Gallagher’s trial began at Naval Base San Diego.