Newly leaked witness allegations in the case of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher could jeopardize the fairness of his court-martial trial that begins next week, and the judge presiding over the case is calling the leaks out.
Military judge Capt. Aaron Rugh, who presides over Gallagher’s case, has called recent leaks “disconcerting” for their potential to influence the jury, testimony, and jeopardize the fairness of the trial, according to the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Rugh said the Navy has “all the power to investigate” and called on them to address the leaks.
The Navy has said an investigation is underway and it has restricted access to sensitive trial information as a measure to put a stop to the leaks.
Capt. Aaron Rugh said leaks to the media violate a protective order and could impact whether @USNavy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — who is charged with murder in the 2017 death of an Iraqi war prisoner — receives a fair trial. https://t.co/vkFldMsXUM
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) February 13, 2019
An attorney-written letter detailing the testimony of one of the Navy SEAL witnesses was obtained by Navy Times at the same time Gallagher’s defense attorney, Phil Stackhouse, received it.
Other materials including a second similar letter, and even the charge sheet early on in the case, were also leaked to the media before the defense team received them.
The letters make never before revealed allegations against Gallagher, such as providing false target coordinates, starting unnecessary insurgent fights, threats against platoon members and their families, and even claims of mental instability.
None of these allegations have been supported by other evidence thus far, however.
Gallagher’s legal team and family says that multiple fellow SEAL teammates fabricated the numerous charges against him due to disagreements with his leadership style.
Sean Gallagher, Eddie Gallagher’s brother, said the allegations stem from a couple of disgruntled subordinates who didn’t want Eddie to lead them on the next deployment.
“These stories, as ridiculous as they were on their face, were swallowed whole by a prosecutor who had no idea what he was doing,” Sean Gallagher said in an interview with Newsmax on Tuesday.
“At every step of the way, they’ve stripped Eddie of his due process,” he added. “The abysmal and horrific treatment of a decorated war hero in this country cuts to the core of who we are as a people.”
Eddie Gallagher is accused of using a knife to stab a detained teenaged ISIS fighter multiple times in May 2017 in Mosul, which allegedly resulted in the fighter’s eventual death while in SEAL custody.
Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, which initially consisted of 14 charges ranging from premeditated murder to assault with a deadly weapon, and others.
At least four of the charges have been dropped so far, but the most devastating charges of all – premeditated murder – still remains. If convicted, Gallagher could receive the death penalty or life in prison.
Gallagher has remained in confinement for more than five months, and was recently denied release from pre-trial confinement. His trial begins Feb. 19.
Further, Gallagher has been documenting various mistreatments while in confinement, which his attorneys presented to the court and leaving Judge Rugh voicing concern for Gallagher’s mistreatment. Gallagher has been confined alongside convicts, his medical appointments canceled, and denied personal hygiene tasks like showering and haircuts.