The two Navy SEALs charged for alleged war crimes have won their first battle in court. A Navy SEAL who allegedly staged a re-enlistment ritual over the body of a dead Islamic State fighter during the Battle of Mosul in Iraq and also hovered a drone over the dead body may have acted in “poor taste” but didn’t commit a war crime, a Navy judge has ruled. The incident took place on May 3, 2017, near Mosul, amid some of the U.S. forces fiercest fighting against ISIS.
On Friday, two military judges delivered a pair of big wins for two Navy SEALs on trial for alleged war crimes by dismissing key charges against Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier. Gallagher is the special operator at the center of the case while Portier was the officer in charge of his platoon who was accused of covering up the incidents.
Chief Operator Gallagher is accused of stabbing to death a wounded Islamic State insurgent while he was being treated for his wounds shortly after he was captured and attempting to shoot innocent civilians with his sniper rifle near Mosul in 2017 during the Battle of Mosul.
The military judge, Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, determined that those are not prohibited acts under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That ruling is also likely to be a big win for platoon leader Jake Portier, who also faces a raft of charges alleging that he covered up his chief petty officer’s alleged war crimes.
Military prosecutors charged Jake Portier with lying to his superior officer, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, about whether he saw “anything criminal” at Gallagher’s reenlistment ritual. Jake Portier allegedly said: “There was nothing criminal. It was just in poor taste,” according to investigative files obtained by Navy Times.
If the judge overseeing Portier’s separate court martial case agrees with Rugh, however, then Portier told the truth and his charge must be dismissed, too.
“It is honorable for a Navy SEAL to reenlist on the battlefield, the same battlefield where he was willing to sacrifice his own life to protect our nation,” Portier’s civilian defense attorney, Jeremiah J. Sullivan III, told Navy Times.
More details about today’s hearing and the case in overall can be found here.