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Murder trial of decorated Navy SEAL is postponed until late May

The murder trial of decorated Navy SEAL Edward “Eddie” Gallagher has been postponed until just after Memorial Day, on the request of the defense team.

Gallagher had been scheduled to go on trial Feb. 19 in the death of a teen ISIS fighter, but on Wednesday his attorneys requested a continuance until May 29, said Brian O’Rourke, spokesman for Navy Region Southwest, the court-martial’s convening authority.

“The request is not unexpected,” O’Rourke said.

Since January, the defense team has received more than 2,000 pages of discovery, more witnesses are being granted immunity, and several counsel are working to interview them, Phil Stackhouse, a San Diego attorney representing Gallagher, said Wednesday explaining the continuation request.

“Yesterday three of seven defense attorneys had their clearance access to classified material granted and four are pending,” Stackhouse said. “The court also granted a very important witness for the defense to be produced from Iraq that will need country clearance for trial.”

Gallagher, 39, was arrested Sept. 11 while being treated at Camp Pendleton’s Intrepid Spirit Center. The 19-year Navy veteran is accused of premeditated murder in the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old ISIS fighter, according to the prosecution. He also is accused of posing with the corpse while taping a reenlistment video. At the time, he was serving as a medic with Naval Special Warfare Group One based out of San Diego.

Gallagher is also charged with shooting a man in June 2017 and a woman in July of that year, both civilians classified as “noncombatants,” according to the charge sheets.

On Jan. 4, Gallagher was arraigned on charges of premeditated murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He pleaded “not guilty” to all war crime charges he is accused of committing during his 2017 deployment in Iraq.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh, who is presiding over Gallagher’s court-martial, asked the Navy to address claims that allegations from a potential government witness were being leaked to the media. Rugh said the leak is “disconcerting” because violating a protective order could taint the jury, affect testimony and impact whether Gallagher receives a fair trial.

The Navy said it is investigating and has limited the number of people who have access to the information.

Stackhouse said the Navy Times received a letter from an attorney representing one of the SEALs expected to testify for the prosecution that detailed his potential testimony. The Navy Times reported over the weekend that an officer in Gallagher’s chain of command said Gallagher called in “false target coordinates to engage a mosque” during their 2017 deployment in Iraq, tried to start unnecessary firefights with insurgents and was so mentally unstable the officer feared the platoon was at risk.

A second letter from another attorney representing a SEAL was also obtained by the Navy Times. The attorney said the SEAL described how Gallagher threatened former members of the SEAL team and their families.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Orange County Register

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