Navy Tosses War Crimes Case Against SEAL’s Platoon Leader
Thursday, August 1, 2019
Photo by Nicholas McVicker
The Navy dismissed charges Thursday against an officer who had been accused of not reporting war crimes by a Navy SEAL later acquitted of murder in a high-profile case that got the president's attention.
The action by the chief of naval operations in the case of Lt. Jacob Portier is the latest blow to military prosecutors and comes a month after a military jury cleared Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of murder and attempted murder charges.
Adm. John Richardson also ordered an investigation into the performance of the Navy's justice system.
Portier faced charges of dereliction of duty, destruction of evidence and holding Gallagher's re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse of a teen Islamic State militant the decorated SEAL was accused of stabbing to death after treating the boy's wounds.
Gallagher was convicted of a single charge of posing for photos with the 17-year-old militant's corpse. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of four months but will serve no jail time because it is less than his pre-trial confinement.
The move by the admiral comes a day after President Donald Trump ordered the secretary of the Navy on Wednesday to strip prosecutors of medals they were awarded for their handling of the case despite the fact Gallagher was acquitted on the most serious charges.
Portier’s lawyer, Jeremiah Sullivan, told KPBS in a statement: “We are thankful for President Trump’s continued support of LT Portier and all of our War fighters. Lt.. Portier is also thankful for the support he received from his command. He is proud to wear his Navy uniform and is ready to return to combat.”
A prosecutor who had been removed from the case before trial — and not given a medal — was admonished for taking part in an effort that used software to track emails sent to the defense team that a judge said violated Gallagher's constitutional rights.
The email tracking was meant to ferret out the source of leaks to the news media that plagued the case but the Navy said it never found the leak.
KPBS reporter Steve Walsh contributed to this story.
To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.