Defense Rests in War Crimes Trial of Navy SEAL, Jury to Deliberate July 1

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Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, right, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Monday, June 24, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)
Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, right, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Monday, June 24, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

The fate of Navy SEAL Edward "Eddie" Gallagher, who is accused of multiple war crimes including the premeditated killing of a teen ISIS fighter, is expected to be in the hands of the jury on Monday, July 1, as attorneys representing the highly decorated serviceman rested their case on Friday.

Gallagher's defense team and the prosecution are scheduled to present closing arguments to begin the day Monday, in a San Diego courtroom, before the jury deliberates. The court-martial is expected to conclude by July 5.

Gallagher, 40, is on trial for the murder of the 17-year-old fighter, as well posing for a photograph with the boy's body while he and other SEALs held a reenlistment ceremony, during a 2017 deployment to Mosul. He is also accused of shooting two non-combatants.

Lt. Commander Robert Breisch, platoon commander of SEAL Team 7 during that deployment, took the stand Friday as the defense's final witness. He testified that no one reported any war crimes to him.

However, on Wednesday, June 26, Navy SEAL Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, Gallagher's superior, said he had been made aware of allegations against Gallagher in October 2017 by Special Warfare Operator Chris Miller, who he said was emotional when he reported the killing.

Alazzawi testified that Miller told him he didn't want to see Gallagher get arrested but he also didn't want to see him receive a Silver Star for valor in combat or continue to provide platoon leadership.

Alazzawi said five months later, in January 2018, seven SEALs were on their way to the office of the commodore of Navy Special Warfare Group 1 to report their allegations when Breisch ordered Alazzawi to stop the group. Alazzawi testified that he did stop them, and suggested to the SEALs there may be "a better way to do this."

The war crime allegations were not reported up the chain of command until April 2018, when an investigation into Gallagher's alleged behavior was initiated.

The 10-day court-martial, held at Naval Base San Diego, has included testimony from six Navy SEALs, three Marines, several digital and forensic expert witnesses and an Iraqi general.

Testimony included a confession from Special Warfare Operator Corey Scott, a Navy SEAL, who on June 20 said that though he saw Gallagher stab the teen ISIS fighter in the neck, it was Scott, himself, who killed the boy by placing his thumb over his breathing tube. A day earlier, Navy Special Warfare Operator Craig Miller also testified that he was an eyewitness to the stabbing.

Scott said he held the teen's head and put his thumb over the breathing tube until the boy asphyxiated as an "act of mercy," because he thought the boy eventually would be tortured by Iraqi forces.

Following Scott's testimony, the prosecution treated him as a hostile witness and accused him of lying to protect Gallagher.

"He's got a wife and family," Scott said. "I don't think he should spend the rest of his life in prison." 

This article is written by Erika I. Ritchie from Orange County Register and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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