A Navy judge in San Diego on Thursday denied a request by a SEAL accused of murdering a prisoner of war to leave the brig until he begins trial next month.
Navy Region Southwest spokesman Brian O’Rourke told Navy Times that Capt. Aaron Rugh issued a ruling that keeps Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, 39, behind bars until his trial begins.
It’s slated to start on Feb. 19 at Naval Base San Diego and Gallagher, a husband and father, has been incarcerated at the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar since his arrest on Sept. 11 at Camp Pendleton, where he was receiving treatment for a traumatic brain injury incurred in combat overseas.
Military prosecutors contend that Gallagher is a callous murderer who stabbed to death the defenseless and wounded teenage detainee on May 3, 2017, near the Iraqi city of Mosul. He also stands accused of gunning down unwitting civilians with his sniper rifle, bragging about racking up kills and threatening to intimidate and publicly out SEAL buddies who complained to superiors and investigators about him.
But the highly-decorated Gallagher and his supporters contend he’s innocent, the victim of a smear campaign ginned up by a small group of malcontents in his SEAL platoon, and predict the 19-year Navy veteran will be vindicated at his court-martial trial.
One of Gallagher’s defense attorneys, retired Marine Phillip Stackhouse, told Navy Times that the military criminal justice system leans against defendants like the highly-decorated SEAL.
He pointed to the prosecution handing prosecutors between 1,500 and 1,700 pages of “hearsay and double hearsay statements” during Gallagher’s Friday arraignment — including messages investigators contend reveal the SEAL trying to strong arm witnesses — and the government’s decision to keep any of the accusers off the stand for defense attorneys to question.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised due to the low legal burden, by the government refusing to put a witness on the stand, and the defense being denied the right to call any witnesses to the allegations,” Stackhouse said in an email.
“The court recognized Eddie’s record of excellent service as evidenced by the testimony of several senior, current and former SEAL Team members. The court also acknowledged Eddie’s strong support network of family, friends, and well-wishers. However, it was not enough when the complaining witnesses refused to be questioned by the defense and the government refused to bring them to court.”
Stackhouse insists that Gallagher isn’t a flight risk and never tried to obstruct justice, but prosecutors have raised troubling allegations of Gallagher’s conduct at home and abroad, including evidence that he used his victim’s corpse as a prop at a hasty reenlistment ceremony in Mosul and mugged for snapshots with the knife he allegedly used to stab the detainee to death.
Gallagher’s supporters have called for President Donald J. Trump to personally intervene in the matter and end the prosecution.
The White House has remained mum on whether officials will review Gallagher’s case.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.