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SEAL Charged With War Crimes To Remain Behind Bars

 April 19, 2019 at 10:25 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 A navy seal charged with war crimes will stay behind bars while awaiting trial. Chief Eddie Gallagher was taken into custody last year and charged with a series of war crimes including killing a teenager who was an alleged isis fighter in his custody. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh has been covering the story and joins us with detailed Steve. Welcome. We mentioned he's accused of war crimes, reminders about the specific accusations against Gallagher. Speaker 2: 00:26 So let me tell you a little bit about Gallagher. This is a seal that was right at the end of his career. He had deployed eight times, most of them combat deployments. He was in Syria in 2017. And what he's accused of is in 2017 while he was in Syria that there was a, uh, an isis fighter that was brought to him, possibly unconscious, and that he's accused of killing the him with his knife. He's also accused of killing a and, and an old man with his sniper rifle. And then bragging about it. We know from some of the documents that have been leaked that he texted photo of himself with the body of the, of the Isis fighter. Two other seals in this command. Speaker 1: 01:10 And yesterday you were in court at Gallagher's hearing what happened, Speaker 2: 01:14 what's happened is he was taken into custody in September 11th of last year and he had been in the brig at Miramar and then on March 30th, president Trump tweeted, uh, that, uh, he wanted Gallagher move to some sort of less restrictive confinement. Uh, after we saw a Congressman Duncan Hunter and a couple of others, I'm urging the president to take action in this. He had been moved then to the naval hospital here in San Diego where he was still in a heavily restricted, he was able to only be in this one barracks area confined to two floors there that what they were trying to do is get those restrictions lessons, either if out of the naval hospital or to lessen those restrictions so he could see family during wider hours. So he could go to the mess hall on his own, things like that. So this is, uh, his defense counsel, a Timothy Palpatory. Speaker 3: 02:05 I think that there was no reason for him to be in the brig in the first place. And he does it. He is not a risk of flight. He's not about this investigation for months before he was arrested, he didn't run away. He didn't do anything to any witnesses. All this stuff that they're talking about with witness intimidation, it's all a big nothing. Speaker 1: 02:29 If his defense attorney is saying he's not a flight risk, why was he confined and putting the brig in the first place Speaker 2: 02:35 he was putting in jail in, in the first place because he had been accused of making threats against others, seals within his command. And these are in fact the seals that ultimately turned him in this case. Also, the judge and we, this came up yesterday in court, can't automatically overruled the seals. Who were the ones who decided to put him in the, the medical center rather than release him entirely after Trump's tweet. And you mentioned that the judge in the case said he doesn't have the authority to overrule the seal command. How is military criminal court different from civilian criminal court? It's actually different in a lot of really kind of interesting ways. There's something called a convening authority in this case, the uh, the rear admiral in charge of Navy region southwest. She's the person who decides who goes to court, who it goes to actual court Marshall. Speaker 2: 03:24 She also has the power to make rulings in various parts of this case. So it's not all up to the judge, which is what we found out yesterday. Now he can do certain things like he can offer good time. So what he ended up ruling yesterday was that Gallagher's confinement was basically tantamount to him remaining in the Brig. It was just the same as remaining in the Brig. So for every day he remains can find the way he is right now. He will get one day off of his sentence assuming he's convicted and I got to circle back and ask a fair some issues here at play. You Say Gallagher was deployed multiple times, right? Yes. Where are they back to back deployments. Like many seals at this point. In many special operators in general, the pace of deployment is really quite high. In fact, special operations command has tried to do a lot to try to bring down the level of deployments. Some people are deploying every six months, so six months here and then six months back out in the field. And many people have said that's now really become unsustainable. President Trump and San Diego Republican congressman Duncan Hunter have weighed in on Gallagher's case. Why do you think it's drawn so much attention? Well, actually his attorney talked a little bit about that himself. Speaker 3: 04:38 Uh, certainly, uh, this case gets more attention because he is a navy seal and he also has probably the best advocates that anybody could ever ask for in his family. His brother and his wife have worked tirelessly to bring this case out into the American consciousness. Speaker 2: 04:57 I think a couple of the reasons our, there've been a lot of leaks in this case. Uh, in fact, this came up in court yesterday. The defense counsel was complaining about the number of leaks, though I think some of those leaks also came from possibly some of Gallagher, his own supporters. So there's a lot of juicy details on these and the fact that we know that there are several, a seals that are scheduled to testify against him though the people in his command. But the biggest issue really is that this is the first of six cases involving navy seals and war crimes to come up in San Diego alone this year. There are also a couple of cases involving seals on the east coast as well. So there's a lot of attention. Normally the special forces community is incredibly quiet. They don't say very much at all. And right now we have this, uh, I would say a massive window into the inner workings of special forces. And a lot of people are concerned, a lot of seals who normally would not go public and talk, are starting to talk now. Trial date is set to May 28 if he's convicted, what kind of sentence is he facing? Well, if he's convicted of the most serious crime, Eddie Gallagher faces life in prison. I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Steve, thanks for joining us. Thanks, Jane.

SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher was taken into custody September 11, 2018. He was moved to the naval hospital in San Diego after the president issued a Tweet supporting his removal from the brig.