A Navy SEAL who allegedly staged a reenlistment ceremony over the body of a dead Islamic State prisoner during the Battle of Mosul in Iraq and also hovered a drone over the corpse may have acted in “poor taste” but didn’t commit a war crime, a Navy judge has ruled.
On Friday, two different military judges delivered a pair of big wins for two Navy SEALs on trial for alleged war crimes by tossing out key charges against the special operator at the center of the case, Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, and the officer in charge of his platoon, Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, who stands accused of covering up the incidents.
Also among the allegations is that Gallagher staged the reenlistment ceremony over the dead ISIS warrior’s body near the Iraqi city of Mosul on May 3, 2017, amid some of the U.S. forces fiercest fighting against ISIS in Iraq. Prosecutors also say he hovered a drone over the body.
But 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 Portier, who also faces a raft of charges alleging that he covered up his chief petty officer’s war crimes.
On Thursday, the Navy judge in Portier’s case quashed a blanket “protective order” issued by SEAL Group 1 that restricted the attorney’s access to key information about the case.
The decision by judge Capt. Jonathan Stephens, greenlights Sullivan to start interviewing witnesses and could force prosecutors to bring the case back to a preliminary hearing, repeating the Article 32 proceedings that brought the matter to Stephens’ court in the first place.
The decision also sets up a legal showdown at Naval Base San Diego on Feb. 15.
Sullivan vowed “to return to court on the 15th of February and we’re going to reopen the Article 32 hearing.”