Legal bombshell explodes in war crimes trial
How a US Navy SEAL stunned a San Diego courtroom with a startling confession
Prosecutors of former special operations chief Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher did not expect Corey Scott to admit to killing a wounded Islamic State insurgent. The government gave Cory Scott immunity if he testified truthfully and he did. He testified to being the actual murderer, at another soldiers murder trial.
Gallagher is facing life in prison for shooting civilians, including a school-aged girl, and knifing to death a captured ISIS fighter receiving medical treatment in Iraq in 2017. He also faces obstruction of justice charges for allegedly attempting to intimidate troops reporting his crimes.
During the prosecution’s case, Special Operator Corey Scott, a SEAL team medic, was called to testify for the government. As a primary prosecution witness, the prosecutors expected Scott would provide a first-hand account of Gallagher’s stabbing of the ISIS fighter.
However Scott testified that it was not Gallagher who was responsible for the prisoner’s death: Scott killed the prisoner. Scott told the court that after he saw Gallagher stab the victim with a knife, he held his thumb over a breathing tube that had been inserted into the fighter’s mouth. The soldier had been captured by Iraqi forces and was dumped on the ground at a military base outside of Mosul, Iraq where he would later encounter the SEALs. He had a leg wound and a collapsed lung following house-to-house fighting. Prosecutors say Gallagher, 39, who began his 18-year career as a medic, briefly treated the young Islamic State fighter, then pulled out his knife and stabbed him in the neck several times. According to Scott’s testimony the fighter was breathing normally after he and Gallagher treated him for wounds suffered in an air strike, but then Scott saw Gallagher stab the young militant once with his knife. Scott said the fighter survived the stabbing, but Scott decided to block the young man’s air tube thinking he would be tortured to death by Iraqi forces if kept alive. “I knew he was going to die anyway,” Scott told the court. “I wanted to save him from waking up to what had happened next.”Scott testified under immunity from prosecution. When asked about his shocking courtroom revelation Scott told reporters that he never mentioned his role in the ISIS fighter’s death both because he had not been asked to and he did not want to be punished. “I don’t want him [Gallagher] to go to jail,” Scott explained.
A seven-sailor jury at the court martial will determine if the insurgent’s death was murder, as alleged by the prosecution, or mutiny by sailors under Gallagher’s command in Iraq, as the defense contends. Gallagher’s defense attorney Tim Parlatore says that Scott’s testimony means proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Gallagher was responsible will be impossible. Gallagher faces a court martial for premeditated murder, which requires a finding that he acted with consciously conceived thought to take his victim’s life. While premeditation does not require that the plan be put into action immediately, an intervening action (such as the independent choice of another person to cause the victim’s death) breaks any causal chain of criminal liability. That is, if Scott made the decision to suffocate the ISIS fighter, he is therefore the one who legally caused the death.
Gallagher has additionally been charged with attempted murder in the wounding of two civilians—a schoolgirl and an elderly man—shot from a sniper’s perch in Iraq. He maintains that fellow SEAL team members in his platoon who turned him in and are testifying against him under grants of immunity are disgruntled subordinates who fabricated allegations to force him from command.
UPDATE: (July 3rd 2019) It has been widely reported that on JULY 2nd that Eddie Gallagher has been found NOT GUILTY of all charges, but one. The one charge that he was found guilty of unlawfully posing for an unofficial photo with a human casualty. The maximum penalty for that crime is four months in jail. Since he has already served that amount of time pending trial, it is expected that he will be sentenced to time served and released.
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