Navy revokes awards given to prosecutors in Navy SEAL court-martial
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[August 01, 2019]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Navy
Secretary Richard Spencer on Wednesday revoked awards given to several
military prosecutors in the court-martial of a Navy SEAL who was
acquitted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner but convicted of unlawfully
posing for photos with his dead body.
The move coincided with tweets from President Donald Trump repeating his
support for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher and directing
Spencer to rescind awards that were "ridiculously given" to prosecutors
who, according to Trump, "lost the case" against Gallagher.
It marked the third time the president has publicly commented directly
on the court-martial of the combat veteran, who was accused of
committing various war crimes while deployed in Iraq in 2017.
A total of 10 military awards - seven Navy Achievement Medals and three
letters of commendation - recently given to military prosecutors for
their work on the Gallagher case were revoked, Navy officials told
Reuters. Those officials said they did not know if Spencer acted on
Trump's orders or took action before the president's tweets.
A military jury in San Diego acquitted Gallagher, a decorated platoon
leader, of charges that he murdered a captured Islamic State fighter by
stabbing the wounded prisoner in the neck.
Gallagher also was found not guilty of attempted murder charges stemming
from the wounding of two unarmed civilians - a school girl and an
elderly man - who were shot from a sniper's perch.
But the panel convicted Gallagher of illegally posing for pictures with
the detainee's corpse.
Much of the testimony against him came from fellow sailors who were
granted immunity from prosecution. One was a medic who surprised
prosecutors during the trial by testifying it was he, not Gallagher, who
caused the detainee's death by plugging his breathing tube in what the
medic described as a mercy killing.
In his tweet storm on Wednesday, Trump criticized the Navy prosecutors
"for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion." Trump also took
credit for having released Gallagher "from solitary confinement so he
could fight his case properly."
[to top of second column]
U.S. Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, with wife
Andrea Gallagher, celebrate after he was acquitted of most of the
serious charges against him during his court-martial trial at Naval
Base San Diego in San Diego, California , U.S., July 2, 2019.
REUTERS/John Gastaldo/File Photo
"I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family!" Trump wrote.
Gallagher, 40, was spared any prison time beyond the nearly seven
months he had spent in pretrial custody. But the jury sentenced him
to a demotion in rank and pay for the crime of posing in pictures
with a human casualty. His lawyers said they planned to appeal.
Gallagher has maintained he was wrongly accused by disgruntled
subordinates who fabricated allegations against him over grievances
with his leadership style and tactics.
Trump first intervened in Gallagher's case in March, when he ordered
the Navy SEAL moved from a military brig to less restrictive
confinement at a Navy base.
The court-martial judge later released Gallagher altogether and
removed the senior Navy prosecutor originally assigned to the case,
citing pretrial prosecution misconduct alleged by defense lawyers. A
Navy spokesman said neither the senior prosecutor who was removed
nor the prosecutor who replaced him were among those who received
the awards in question.
Trump weighed in again on Twitter just after the jury verdict to
In May, Trump said publicly that he was considering pardons for a
number of U.S. military personnel accused of war crimes, and
Gallagher's case was widely believed to be one of those under
(Reporting by Phillip Stewart in Washington; Writing and additional
reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Bill Tarrant,
Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall)
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