Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, a Navy SEAL chief who pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Friday for war crimes in Iraq, has the backing of a Marine veteran who’s now a California lawmaker.
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican who represents Alpine, issued a statement Friday supporting Gallagher and said the commander-in-chief should step in, review all evidence and stop the court-martial.
“It is important to remember that this ISIS combatant was engaged in an extensive firefight with Chief Gallagher’s team and was already significantly injured when captured,” Hunter wrote. “No credible evidence has been provided that this ISIS fighter was murdered as opposed to dying from his terrorist actions.”
Special Operations chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher pleaded not guilty Friday in the charge of war crimes, including premeditated murder of a 15-year-old ISIS fighter, around May 3, 2017, in Iraq. The report states Gallagher texted a photo of himself holding the ISIS fighter’s head in one hand and a knife in the other.
Gallagher sustained wounds in Iraq, and he had undergone care — even specialized care for head wounds — until his detention and subsequent arrest last September. He had recently been held in the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar for 17 weeks waiting for Friday’s arraignment.
In Hunter’s statement, he wrote Gallagher had been held in confinement “where allegedly, he has not been provided with quality access to medical care, mental health services or legal representation.
“If true, it is completely unacceptable and, without hesitation, I will introduce legislation to ensure this situation is not repeated.”
Hunter went on to say he figured high-level politics could play a role in Gallagher’s prosecution.
Phillip Stackhouse is a civilian attorney who represents Gallagher.
“What we’ve learned in our independent investigation into these allegations is that a crime simply didn’t happen,” Stackhouse told Task & Purpose last October. “There are members of his unit that are making the allegation that he pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the neck and body.”
Gallagher enlisted in the Navy in 1999, and he served as a medical corpsman from 2000-04 before joining the special warfare unit in 2005, according to his biography. His chest full of medals include two Bronze Stars with valor.
In May of 2017, Gallagher reportedly came upon a situation where SEAL medics were treating a wounded ISIS fighter, and that Gallagher allegedly stabbed the Islamic State militant to death. Hunter, the Marine, took the side of those who fought alongside Gallagher and saw war together in the trenches.
“Those who have served with him in combat describe him as nothing less than an American hero,” Hunter wrote. “I am significantly concerned that this is an example of the over-aggressiveness of the Navy JAG Corp showing its bias against our warfighters.
“Due to verifiable political nature of the Navy’s justice system, I believe that Chief Gallagher’s matter needs to be taken away from the Navy and President Trump himself needs to personally review and dismiss this case, taking an American hero out of a prison cell and back on the front lines where he belongs.”