- Leaked court documents from a January ruling revealed allegations that Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who is accused of killing an ISIS fighter after the militant surrendered, threatened to kill anyone who spoke against him, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Friday.
- Gallagher’s lawyers said these claims are “entirely fabricated,” adding that these months-old documents are leaking now because the prosecution’s case is falling apart.
- Gallagher will stand trial next month.
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A decorated US Navy SEAL accused of brutal killings in Iraq was also accused of threatening to kill teammates who spoke against him, according to court documents, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher is accused of killing an unarmed ISIS fighter with a hunting knife and firing on civilians with a sniper rifle while deployed in Iraq, as well as intimidating fellow SEALs. Ahead of his May 28 court-martial trial, a leaked judge’s ruling from January alleged that Gallagher threatened to kill those who spoke out about the misconduct he is accused of.
At least three witnesses, two of whom are no longer cooperating with investigators, have accused Gallagher of stabbing an ISIS fighter to death after the young militant had been brought to him for medical treatment during a 2017 deployment to Iraq. There is a photo of Gallagher posing with the body, which he reportedly sent to another Navy SEAL with the message: “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
Witnesses have also told investigators they saw Gallagher shoot an elderly man and a young girl, both unarmed civilians, according to the judge’s ruling, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Gallagher was arrested in September 2018 following allegations of intimidating witnesses and obstruction of justice, and he was detained at San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar. He was officially charged in January with premeditated murder, among other crimes.
In late March, he was moved from the brig at Miramar to a facility at Balboa Naval Medical Center after a tweet by President Trump, in a highly unusual intervention in a court-martial. Gallagher is set to stand trial next month.
A ruling by Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh written in favour of continued confinement for the accused and obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune said that one witness heard Gallagher threaten to kill anyone who spoke about the murder.
The SEAL has previously been accused of attempting to bribe and even blackmail his teammates to keep them quiet.
“Based on (Gallagher’s) continued and methodic acts of witness intimidation, I deemed pretrial confinement necessary,” Rugh ruled in January, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Gallagher’s defence team said that months-old court documents are leaking because the prosecution’s case is rapidly falling apart.
“There’s nothing recent that’s good for them,” Gallagher’s lawyer Tim Parlatore told Business Insider on Monday, adding that the information on which the ruling is based is problematic.
“That ruling was based on a hearing where none of the actual witnesses testified,” Parlatore said. “You had an agent come up and testify about things that people said to him, which is permissible in that type of hearing, but it’s not as reliable as the actual witness statements.”
The defence attorney disputed the claims in the leaked ruling, telling Business Insider that Gallagher’s alleged threats to kill his fellow SEALs are “entirely fabricated.” He asked rhetorically, “If [Gallagher] seriously wanted to kill one of these guys in May 2017 and he didn’t get arrested until September 2018, how come nobody got hurt?”
The defence team is pushing to remove some of the pretrial movement and access restrictions that have been placed on Gallagher. It is also trying secure full immunity for the witnesses who initially accused the SEAL, particularly those who have pleaded the Fifth Amendment to avoid further cooperation with investigators, so that they might officially testify under oath in hopes of getting “the truth to come out.”
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