Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters
Edward Gallagher, a decorated Navy SEAL and special operations chief, charged with murder.
PROCESS PROBLEMS

Accused US war criminal Edward Gallagher is out on a technicality

Ephrat Livni
By Ephrat Livni

Senior reporter, law & politics, DC.

Special operations chief Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who is charged with murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians and more, was released from military custody on May 30. For the Americans campaigning to “Free Eddie“—including Fox & Friends host Pete Hegseth, who lobbied US president Donald Trump to pardon Gallagher before his trial—this is a small victory.

Military judge captain Aaron Rugh in San Diego said he would let Gallagher go while his trial is pending as a remedy for prosecutorial misconduct. The defendant’s counsel argued that prosecutors tracked defense lawyers’ emails and violated attorney-client privilege. Now Gallagher’s defense team is moving to have the platoon leader’s controversial case dismissed, or at the very least to have the prosecutors on the matter replaced, which means the June 10 trial may be delayed. It may not happen at all if Trump follows through on a pardon for the accused war criminal.

Gallagher’s own troops reported him for shooting unarmed civilians, including a young girl and an old man, in Iraq. He is also accused of slaying an unarmed Iraqi captive being treated by American medics, according to a 439-page Navy confidential criminal investigation (paywall). He is charged with 12 counts, including murder, attempted murder, and obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to intimidate troops reporting his crimes.

The behavior described by some of his troops is disturbing—seven of his platoon members said that Gallagher spent much of his last tour in Iraq sniping at civilians. Before they reported their chief, the Navy SEALs said they tried to devise a way to keep people safe from Gallagher. They said they took to shooting warning shots at passersby so that people would flee before Gallagher could aim to kill. When troops did finally report Gallagher to a superior, they were pressured to keep the accusations to themselves. But when they threatened to go public with the information last year, Gallagher was finally investigated.

Authorities finally arrested the decorated Navy SEAL last September. He faces the possibility of life in prison for his crimes if the case does go to trial and the charges are proven.

Gallagher was originally released from the Naval Consolidated Brig in Miramar, California in March after Trump tweeted that he should be placed in a less restrictive environment. He was then moved to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. “Now he’s allowed out completely, so he can go to a hotel with his family,” his lead defense attorney Tim Parlatore told the military publication Task & Purpose after Thursday’s hearing. “It’s a major step up because it means he can also now have a cell phone. He can have a computer with internet.”

Parlatore previously represented Hegseth, Gallagher’s champion on Fox & Friends and a military veteran with the president’s ear. “I’m representing an innocent man that the government wants to put in jail for the rest of his life,” the lawyer said. “There’s no more important thing that I can do in my life than to save Eddie Gallagher, an American hero.”

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.