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Defense calls war crimes charges against Navy SEAL Edward ‘Eddie’ Gallagher a case of ‘sailor mutiny’ in opening statements of court-martial

Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher leaves a military courtroom on Naval Base San Diego with his wife, Andrea Gallagher. (Andrew Dyer/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Calling it a case of sailor mutiny, Tim Parlatore, lead defense attorney for Navy SEAL Edward “Eddie” Gallagher who is accused of the premeditated murder of a teen ISIS fighter and other war crimes during a 2017 deployment to Iraq, outlined to a packed courtroom how he will prove Gallagher’s innocence.

“Gallagher didn’t attempt to murder anyone,” Parlatore said Tuesday morning, June 18, during his opening statement in a packed court-martial room at Naval Base San Diego. “The only one targeted in this case is Chief Gallagher. This is about the battle of Mosul in 2017. Some sailors were afraid, some didn’t want to be exposed to enemy fire. Because they didn’t want to get into the fight, they bonded together to get Eddie out of the fight.”

Parlatore’s opening statement followed the selection of a seven-man jury made up of members of the Marine Corps and Navy.

The defense attorney went on to describe Gallagher as an 18-year veteran with eight deployments who was the senior enlisted sailor in Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7. He told the jury, Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh and the media-filled courtroom that the prosecution’s case against Gallagher is a rumor mill filled with innuendos.

“You’ll listen to evidence but you’ll see very little forensic evidence,” he said. “No body, no autopsy, NCIS didn’t look for a body. You’ll see the video cut off.”

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In contrast, Cmdr. Jeffrey Pietrzyk, who is leading the prosecution against Gallagher, painted a picture of a rogue Navy SEAL who sought out the 15-year-old ISIS fighter as a target to kill and went on random sniper sprees aiming at non-combatants.

“I got a cool story when I get back, U got my knife skills on,” Pietrzyk read from a text, displayed on a large screen, that he said came from Gallagher. “I got him with my hunting knife.

“These texts messages were on Chief Gallagher’s phone,” Pietrzyk said. “Witnesses will say they witnessed Gallagher stab an ISIS fighter and he celebrated that murder. You’ll also hear how Chief Gallagher shot regularly at non-combatants. You’ll hear about instances where he shot an old man and a young girl.”

Gallagher, 40 a special warfare operations chief, has pleaded “not guilty” to all charges in a high-profile case that has taken dramatic twists and turns since Sept. 11, 2018, when Gallagher was arrested at Camp Pendleton’s Intrepid Spirit Center where he was undergoing a medical screening.

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© 2019 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.