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Navy SEAL War Crimes Trial Delayed

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The trial has been delayed for the Navy SEAL accused of committing war crimes while on deployment. Seniors are finding it harder to live in the Golden State. California moves one step closer to restricting short-term rentals in San Diego.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Trial is delayed for a navy seal accused of committing war crimes while deployed in Iraq. What's stalling the process and president Trump's possible role? The number of seniors will double in California and coming years. The challenge of staving off poverty for many among them and the victory for critics of short term rentals. The bill proposing strict restrictions clears the state assembly. I Mark Sauer the KPBS round table starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:29 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:37 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. Lori Weisberg, who covers tourism and hospitality for the San Diego Union Tribune, KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh, KPBS investigative reporter, Martha Sharma, and Andrew Dyer, who covers the military for the San Diego Union Tribune. Well, the ax described within the charging documents are characterized as war crimes, murder, attempted murder. They involve a navy seal facing trial at Naval Base San Diego. President Trump has gotten involved making the spotlight even brighter on what was already a high profile case. And Steve, start with this pending trial. Who's the defendant? What are the charges?

Speaker 3: 01:20 So this is a seal, a chief Petty Officer, Eddie Gallagher. He's accused of in 2017 of a, of killing a, a wounded prisoner who was in his custody of teenage Isis fighter that was brought to him by, uh, by Iraqi forces into Mosell. He's also accused of, uh, of, uh, using his sniper rifle rifle to kill both a, uh, um, uh, an old man. And I'm a young woman.

Speaker 1: 01:46 And so a very serious charges obviously. And, uh, he has his defenders in Congress and among certain media, correct.

Speaker 3: 01:53 It is true. This, this case has become a, I mean, it would've been high profile anyway. The navy seals don't go on trial for war crimes very often. So that would have already been a high profile. But there has been a tremendous amount of media spotlight here. You've had a thousands of pages of documents leaked to certain media outlets and you've also had a, uh, his wife and brother, they've been on conservative media. You've had 20 congressmen that signed a petition to have a Gallagher removed from the brig at Miramar. And eventually, uh, uh, president Trump, uh, he chimed in and moved him to the, uh, the, uh, the naval hospital in Diego.

Speaker 1: 02:35 Yeah. So a, it's a, yeah, it's been talked about in a, in this trial is, is delayed. We'll get to that in a second and why, but, um, Andrew, I want to do a get into the, uh, the, uh, claims by the defense attorneys and, and that gets complicated in a second, but how did the, uh, Donald Trump get involved in this case and he's become news now, right. Well, it kind of started with Duncan Hunter. Um, our local congressman, I'm as early as

Speaker 4: 03:00 Gallagher's indictment in early January, um, was functioning as an advocate for Gallagher and his family. Um, and that kind of caught steam from there, from other republican congressman who kind of took up the cause, uh, leading to a Trump taking action on it. And, um, now, um, Fox, uh, an attorney for a Fox News host has now defending Gallagher as well as Trump's personal attorney. Um, Margaret Casey is on the legal team now.

Speaker 1: 03:27 Your new wanted these, uh, these papers and it looked like he might be thinking about pardon, even before trial. And now you said there were some news today where apparently the president's backing off of that.

Speaker 4: 03:37 Right. So I'm the president on his way to Japan to meet with the prime minister. But, uh, before he jumped on the helicopter, um, he talked to reporters and he was asked about and potentially pardoning, um, Gallagher and other service members, uh, charged with war crimes. And he said that, um, just to paraphrase because of the controversy, he, he might wait until after the trial to, to actually take any action, if any at all.

Speaker 1: 04:02 In this case, there's a couple of other cases he's looking at two opponents.

Speaker 4: 04:05 Yeah. The case of a, uh, an army special forces officer who, um, was investigated and I think 2011 for war crimes, um, was cleared, but then went on Fox News in 2016 and admitted to killing a civilian, Eh, an unarmed, uh, uh, person in Afghanistan.

Speaker 1: 04:27 And, uh, as you say, the President says this is controversial as had been some, some real reaction to this, uh, notion of pardoning, especially before a trial, right?

Speaker 4: 04:35 Yes. Well, you know, our armed forces overseas, you know, they, they operate under the law of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions, um, and our military leaders. And I think the American people would kind of like it that way. We don't like to think of our troops. I'm going overseas and you know, killing indiscriminately. And so I think the concern is that by subverting that system, um, potentially that could send a message to our, our deployed forces that these rules don't matter.

Speaker 1: 05:07 I should mention, uh, uh, one of the, uh, Democratic candidates for president of p Buddha, judge, uh, who's, uh, a veteran himself weighed in on this because he was asked about the Trump and this pardon? He says, if you're convicted by a jury of your military peers at committing a war crime idea that the president is going to overrule, and is it a front to the good idea of good order and discipline? The idea of the rule of law, the very thing we believe we're putting our lives on the line to protect. So it has gotten quite controversial as we go.

Speaker 3: 05:36 Even one of the congressmen that signed a petition to have him move that Dan Crenshaw who is a, uh, a former navy seal himself said he would rather see this go through the actual military justice project, Eh, process rather than then have some sort of a pardon preemptively. Laurie, I was just wondering if there, he's gotten Gallagher's gotten any kind of sympathy or support

Speaker 5: 05:58 from fellow, um, service members or I think, I think I've seen that they don't like the fact about the pardon, but is, is there any kinds of sympathy for him?

Speaker 1: 06:07 Because his main accuses our fellow seals, right?

Speaker 3: 06:10 Indeed, they are. Seven seals had been granted immunity to, uh, to testify in this case. Now his defense attorney say some of that testimony may actually help exonerate, uh, Eddie Gallagher. But sure, you've seen a number of seals coming out in support of, of Gallagher, which, you know, this is a very tight knit community, very quiet community. They don't like being public in most cases, but when you have a navy seal on trial, yeah, you've seen people coming out and support,

Speaker 5: 06:37 but you know, when somebody's pardons fenlon um, the implication is that a crime has been committed. So

Speaker 3: 06:47 right now his defense attorney, Tim Pelletier, he said after a hearing of this week that you don't have to admit guilt to, to receive a pardon though what they would rather see is that, um, in the military court, do you have something called a convening authority, which is usually an admiral or, or a local commander. They would certainly like the president of takeover and then go ahead and rather than pardon him, dismissed the charges outright.

Speaker 4: 07:12 Andrew from, um, both from the defense and from a sales that I've spoken to who are witnesses in the case. Um, they've said that they would prefer him to go to trial even if that means exoneration. The, uh, the idea that he deserves a fair trial is, is prevalent even even among his supporters, they'd rather see him exonerated then, um, accepting a burden. No, the case was

Speaker 1: 07:35 supposed to go on on Tuesday. It's been delayed. What techniques had told next Friday at what are the defense attorneys that claiming here they're saying there's some, some, uh, unfair things happening there and they're pushing to have what the judge removed the prosecutors removed Poteat with everything else involved in this

Speaker 3: 07:50 case. Now there are allegations of spying by prosecutors on the defense. Uh, I mentioned earlier all the leaks that were involved here. Um, and at one point prosecutors have admitted that they put a tracking device on email sent to the defense and to some reporters and um, the defense is saying that's tantamount to spying. Initially the allegation was that the judge had a either allowed this or acquiesce to having this done, uh, after this hearing last week. Um, his attorney Parla Tori was, was less inclined to implicate the judge in this. But all of this will come to a hearing now on ones that he was originally scheduled to go on Tuesday. This will all come to a hearing on a, on Wednesday. And then also, uh, presumably be a motion to dismiss in there. But tentatively it's Friday. But I think, Andrew, you've got some information where Mike, you go a little bit later.

Speaker 4: 08:40 Uh, so the judge, uh, on Wednesday I told the attorneys to get together and, and figure out a day that works for them because the defense, because they've been dealing with this email spying, they say they haven't had time to prepare their defense for trial. So there might be a, a week or two I'm, we're looking around June 10th, I think is what the, uh, attorneys have tentatively agreed to. Um, but that's not official until a Wednesday when the judge actually sets the date. But um, so I think early to mid June is, is uh, likely start date right now.

Speaker 3: 09:11 So it does seem like the judge is eager to get this moving here. This is already been delayed once. I think that this is going to be a three week trial. They'd still like to get it done, uh, by the beginning of July. Even the defense is saying that they have witnesses lined up along delay is going to make that even harder.

Speaker 5: 09:27 Yeah. I'm curious. So, you know, the rule of law is a phrase that's been throwing up that's been thrown around a lot in the past two years. If these pardons were to go through, what would they do to the rule of law within the military?

Speaker 3: 09:44 I, I, well, I mean with a pardon. Um, it, you're basically taking it out of the military justice, um, around, um, I mean I've spoken to, um, to attorneys that have talked to him about the implications of this case. And you know, when you're talking about somebody like Eddie Gallagher, these are not what you would consider to be fog of war, which you, uh, a situation where there was a fog of war. These are a situation where a prisoner was brought to him. And if it's true that he indeed stamped him, um, that would have direct influence on soldiers who are, uh, who may be captured by enemy forces, captured by, by an isis around the world. And yeah, people are watching this very closely. So it's being watched everywhere, not just in this country, but certainly, uh, around the world and in the Middle East. One of the reasons we followed the world's is because we want others to follow the rules as well.

Speaker 1: 10:35 It goes to the whole question of torture, which we've talked about as well on the show. Well, no, a couple of seconds left in this segment, likelihood this would get dismissed or that the prosecutors would be removed or the judge recused or hard to tell. Huh.

Speaker 4: 10:49 And, and we're more find out Wednesday whenever, um, these motions are argued in front of the judge. Um, prosecutors are confident that they're in the right and, um, that the software they attached to the emails, that everything's on the up and up and was legal. Uh, the defense says otherwise. So, um, I'm interested to see you with that.

Speaker 1: 11:08 Joey. All are will look great

Speaker 3: 11:09 because it's being you, you have a prosecutor recruit recused himself. They can always just bring in another prosecutor and go full steam before in there, right?

Speaker 1: 11:16 Yeah. All right. We'll see what happens on Wednesday. We'll look for your reports. We're going to move on. The California image of the forever young, frolicking through an endless summer is slamming into the demographic reality. The number of seniors in the Golden State is set to double in the next 25 years. That means new challenges and new opportunities. Kpbs this week hosted a town hall forum featuring experts discussing what it all means and a Amica you and jade Heinemann of our staff, uh, hosted this form before him start with these, uh, experts, uh, lay though the scope for us. So who participated?

Speaker 5: 11:50 Well, we were very lucky. We had a very esteemed panel experts. We had Betsy Butler who has the California Commission on Aging. We had Paul Downey who is the president and CEO of serving seniors here in San Diego. We had Kevin Prendeville, who's the national executive director of Justice in aging and we had, um, a USC gerontology professor by the name of Donna Benton.

Speaker 1: 12:14 Okay. And give us the overview on these numbers. I mean, they're really startling.

Speaker 5: 12:20 So you nailed it in your intro when you said, look, the, the, um, number of seniors in the state of California set to double over the next 25 years. By 2030, we're going to have 9 million seniors. Um, and so what that does is it skews the demographics depending on who you believe, you're going to have anywhere between 20 to 25% of California's population being made up of seniors. So there will be more seniors than there are people 19 and under. And what that does is it dramatically alters the landscape. It changes housing, it changes the public services that are needed. Um, it changes transportation. There are a number of seniors in this state who currently our bed locked and they are in dire need of transportation. And then people who are not in such dramatic situations, they also need transportation. But more important than that, there are a number of seniors in this state who are paying 70% of their income on their home and that can't be sustainable, more affordable housing.

Speaker 1: 13:26 She let me, that was the big issue. The experts we're talking,

Speaker 5: 13:28 that was the issue. The most important need that seniors have right now is affordable housing. Um, here in San Diego there is some affordable housing complexes that are set to open. The waiting lists are hundreds long. The chances of those people getting in any time soon is next to zero. Um, and you know, the governor has said that he wants to build hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units over the next decade, 3 million in overall 3 million new housing units, but then hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units within that. And as people said it as sit in, um, recently in Sacramento, seniors said this at a sit in that we will be dead by the time those homes are built. They need something now and yet their chances of getting in to an affordable housing unit right now are like 78 years within seven, eight years.

Speaker 1: 14:20 And uh, there were some, some opportunities or some creative solutions talked about as well. So I'm like, well,

Speaker 5: 14:27 well one is the suggestions that's being thrown around and actually implemented right now is seniors moving in together. We did a story on that, uh, in the last week or so, um, where you have maybe an older senior and a younger senior moving in together and then the younger senior helps the older senior, um, or then you have these intergenerational arrangements where, um, you have older seniors living with people you know, in their forties are in their twenties and that they believe is extremely effective because, you know, one of the issues affecting seniors is social isolation. So if you are surrounding them with people who are younger that you know, that keeps them vibrant, um, and in the mix. Um, so in La county they're actually really pushing this idea of seniors rooming with seniors. Um, and it is happening more up and down the state, but there aren't any numbers on it more.

Speaker 5: 15:24 Um, you know, last year we did a, we did a big piece of takeout looking at how, um, workers, older individuals are working longer and for a number of reasons, but you know, the disappearance of the pensions, um, and not enough money to live on. They want to work longer. And then we'll just wondering a given and because of the high cost of housing too. So I'm wondering if you in your reporting your finding that that they are having to work longer. And we also encountered the issue of age discrimination that older workers can't get back into the job market. So I think that's kind of wrapped up into these, these challenges facing older individuals. In our reporting, we found both seniors are working longer, um, and seniors are having seniors who want to offset their expenses by continuing to work or maybe restarting work or having a heck of a time finding a job.

Speaker 5: 16:12 Uh, there's one woman who said that, you know, when she walks into an employer and has them, her resume, they don't even look at the resume. They look at her and say, sorry, we don't have anything. So she doesn't believe that she's being evaluated on the merits of her experience. So, um, ageism is real, uh, how you deal with that. I don't know that anyone has come up with a good answer yet in poverty. I mean, of course not having a job and needing the income leads to poverty. What are the numbers looking at seniors with poverty, those are equally starts. So going by the federal poverty lines, which are much lower than the states, poverty lines, one in five seniors in California are living in poverty 20%. If you combine that with the states poverty numbers and it is more like 47%. So nearly half of the state seniors are living in poverty and, and they are struggling to pay their rent and they're having to make choices between paying their rent, paying for food and paying for medication.

Speaker 3: 17:15 Do you look at all at the other end of the spectrum? I, I've, I've talked to sources who are former Californians are, uh, who are now living in other parts of the country and they take that wonderful California housing equity and they take that money and they go live in Colorado, which I have to imagine means there's going to be an, uh, a net outflow of money from California to other states

Speaker 5: 17:39 bullet. But it hasn't, it will. So that's already started. However, the number of seniors living in the state don't, uh, actually back that up. Most of the people who are living this straight are in the state are hugely employable, but they tend to be younger families, middle class families who want to be able to sustain that middle class lifestyle but can't find a job that can support that in this state because of the high cost of housing and everything else. So they're leaning in droves and they're not um, poor. I need educated people who are living, leaving. They are people who are in relatively good paying jobs, but they still can't afford a home. And so it's a kind of brain drain in. It is a brain drain. The other aspect of this is that the seniors, um, who might pick up and leave if that's at a cost to them as well, because then they'd be leaving friends, family, they would be leaving doctors, you know, just networks of people that take decades to build up.

Speaker 1: 18:37 Well, I'd encourage people to go to our website and look for this special event that occurred this week and a, and we'll be talking a lot more in the shows we go forward. We're going to move on now. Well, critics of AIRBNB type rentals in San Diego scored a big win this week in the California assembly. Lawmakers passed a bill that would cut away cut way back that is on short term rentals in our coastal areas. So start there. What's the bill do, Laurie?

Speaker 6: 19:00 So this bill, even though it's a state bill, it's directed just at San Diego County's coastal communities, and it would, it targets the, the platforms themselves, the Airbnb, homeaway, and says that no one platform can have a residential listing where the owner is, is absent for any more than 30 days. I have a whole whole gear. That's it. That's a big limitation. Now, conceivably, you as a host can platform hop and do 30 days on Airbnb in 30 days on Brbo, et cetera. But it's a big, it's a big change and it's, it's, it's a big change for San Diego County because the coastal communities from cornetto to Carlsbad, there's a very different set of regulations in each, in each city I'm in Carlsbad allows them corn not Oban from. So you're, um, you're trying to some, some critics of this bill say, you know, you're trying to impose a one size fits all on the county where that just isn't possible.

Speaker 1: 19:53 Why is it only aimed at San Diego County and not other? Yeah.

Speaker 6: 19:56 Okay. So the legislator that proposes is from infinitus. Um, and she, it did start out as like California wide bill. Um, and then it predictably, it just went back to San Diego County. I don't think there would have been enough support for a statewide solution on this, so that, so it's not unusual to carve out a county for, for a bill. But, um, in this case it did. And I'm Guinea pig thing is, and she's also characterizing it. They, the legislator, um, Tasha burner, Harvard, she's, she's, I'm characterizing as kind of like pilot program because it, it expires in five. It would, it would expire in five years. And then you can see what kind of impact it has hurt. Her motivation is we're losing, we have a whore affordability problem. We have a housing supply pro problem and the proliferation of these short term rentals are taking longterm housing off the supply. Um, and that's, um, that's a debatable argument, but that's her, that's her argument.

Speaker 1: 20:54 All right. And, um, how likely is this restriction to pass the Senate and then get signed into law by the governor?

Speaker 6: 21:01 Well, just no part of me that's kind of surprised it's gone this far. Um, but, um, it'll be interesting because then it goes to the state senate and the state Senate committees and, and it's very possible that she, she's already amended it to some degree, but I could get amended more. And there's also a question, how much will, um, they'll, legislators defer to the San Diego developed delegation, which there's, there's a split on this. Like Todd, Gloria, a Democrat, um, voted no on it. Um, I'll read that Gonzales and Shirley Weber and by the gas for its Republican representatives voted no. So there's, you know, the question is how much deference will they give to local legislators. Um, and then you've got in the, in the county itself, you've got del Mar, I'm supporting the bill. You've got the ocean side mirror opposing the bill. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 21:45 So a big splitters. Yeah. Really amazed to be seen how it would progress us through our busy time on your beat this week here we're going to get to another story here and four plans put forth to bring high speed transit, the Lindbergh field to give us the high points of those.

Speaker 6: 21:59 So they're looking at for basic routes, um, three of them involve at people mover. It could be underground above ground and it would be connected to a grand central station, which doesn't even exist yet, but it could be on the military spouse spyware property or it could be on a location just a little bit further south of that. But they're both still north of the airport. Um, and so the idea would be to link that and then then you would link the rest of the county so that there's no, so that people from anywhere in the county could get to the airport with no more than one transfer. And then the fourth option involves an extension of the San Diego trolley. So the next step before anything further is done is they're going to model these and see how fast is it, how cost effective is, which, which option comes out on top when you model it. And then they'll move on to do environmental studies, et Cetera, et cetera.

Speaker 1: 22:50 It's going to be a while. But what did, what did they do the step back on this? What are the big complaints now about what we're lacking when it gets, when it gets people to getting to the airport?

Speaker 6: 22:58 That there is real no, in a city of our size, there is no real public transit. And unless you take maybe an express bus that's about, that's about it. Um, and this all erupted because the airport authority is, um, wants to do a $3 billion plan to expand terminal one. They did an environmental impact report and uh, all the other surrounding agencies who are critical of it because it put in nothing for improving roads and for doing transit. So the mayor of San Diego, Faulkner and I'm the Sandag executive director got together and they formed this subcommittee. They're all, it's kind of Kumbaya now. They're all talking to each other. And the hope is that they'll come up with a, with a plan, but it's going to be very expensive. It could be in the billions. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 23:43 Well that's my next question. You're already talking about a $3 billion plan for the expansion of the tournament. We won't even get into an alternative airport site in the 50, 60 years. We've talked about that. But a, where's this money come from? And we're talking about billions,

Speaker 6: 23:57 I suppose, another sales tax increase on which is, you know, on the table. Um, and I don't know that. I mean that's where it would have to come from. And, and then the question is, like I said, a big part of this is this idea for a grand central station that that's even more money. So it makes me wonder whether the, you know, the easiest solution is the trolley or just the fall back position of just expressing more express buses. Right.

Speaker 1: 24:20 Got about a minute. Left me thought you were gonna say something profound. No, I'll say something. They'll ask you. No, Steve, go ahead.

Speaker 3: 24:28 No, I live in ocean beach, which is right on the other side of point Loma from the airport. It, it strikes me that they can't expand that airport much more and still expect people to begin to get in and out of it. It's already fairly gridlocked right now. Right.

Speaker 1: 24:42 For a metro area, this side. No kidding.

Speaker 6: 24:44 Right. And, and so they did talk about, um, all of these plans with the exception of the trolley, one would, um, involve a reconfiguration of Laurel to make it the main ingress and egress and the embroidery, which comes from the hill. Of course. Yeah. So, so there's, there's that idea of maybe better off ramps and stuff, but again, all those dollar figures adding up, I, it'll be interesting to see how far they can go with this. But we are, you know, for a major city there, you don't have, you know, subway or trolley or a metro that goes to it. So that, that's a big complaint. And as the growth continues to occur, whether expanded or not, it's, it's, there's gonna Dean, more transportation help.

Speaker 1: 25:22 Absolutely. We'll certainly look forward to your coverage of this as we move forward. New this summer in the plans come to fruition, we hope. Well, that wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Laurie Weisberg at the San Diego Union Tribune. Steve Walsh of KPBS news. I mean if the Sharma of KPBS news and Andrew Dyer of the San Diego Union Tribune. And a reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website. KPBS dot o r. G I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next Friday on the round table.

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.