A jury yesterday found a US Navy SEAL not guilty of fatally stabbing a badly wounded Iraqi captive in the neck and shooting at unarmed civilians, convicting him only of unlawfully posing for pictures with the detainee’s dead body.
The seven-member jury found Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 39, was found guilty of posing for unofficial pictures with the remains of an Iraqi whom Gallagher was acquitted of killing. His conviction carries a maximum sentence of four months’ imprisonment.
Navy authorities said Gallagher gets credit for nearly seven months of time already served in pretrial custody, so he would presumably remain a free man. But he could receive other punishment, such as a demotion in rank and reduced pay, Reuters reported.
Gallagher would have faced a possible life prison sentence had he been found guilty of murder or attempted murder.
Following Tuesday’s verdict, the court was reconvened for a brief sentencing hearing, during which two friends of Gallagher testified on his behalf as character witnesses.
The jury also heard from two doctors who specialize in brain injuries. They said Gallagher suffered repeated concussions during his combat career, putting him at high risk of brain degeneration and visual impairments that will require ongoing medical attention.
Jurors were due to return to the courthouse today at US Naval Base San Diego to decide any penalties to be imposed.
In a surprise blow to prosecutors during the first week of the trial, a Navy SEAL medic testified it was he, not Gallagher, who caused the death of the gravely injured prisoner by blocking his breathing tube, calling it a mercy killing.
Two defense witnesses – an Iraqi general and a U.S. Marine staff sergeant – later testified they never saw the Iraqi captive mistreated by anyone during the 20 minutes he spent alive in American custody.
A San Diego military courtroom was stunned on Thursday after learning that the defendant, Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, couldn't have fatally stabbed a captured 15-year-old ISIS fighter in Iraq in 2017 - because a SEAL combat medic claims he was the one who killed the enemy combatant.
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