Defense lawyers for a decorated Navy SEAL charged with war crimes are expected to grill the lead investigator in the case Tuesday as they try to paint a picture of an upstanding war hero being framed by lies.
Attorneys for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher planned to cross-examine a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who interviewed Gallagher’s fellow SEALs about his alleged killing of a wounded young Islamic State prisoner and shootings of an elderly civilian and a school-age girl.
Gallagher, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder at his court-martial in San Diego.
Defense lawyers say investigators treated Gallagher unfairly, including his arrest at a facility where he was being treated for a traumatic brain injury and a search of his home when two sons were forced to leave the house in their underwear at gunpoint.
Gallagher attorney Tim Parlatore on Monday called the investigation “offensive” and “vindictive.”
In court papers, Parlatore has accused NCIS Special Agent Joseph Warpinski of either inaccurately reporting witness statements or extracting incorrect information from witnesses who feared being charged.
“Unfortunately, because these inaccurate statements support the prosecutors’ false narrative, they are making every effort to obstruct and threaten these witnesses and prevent them from telling the full truth,” Parlatore wrote in a motion to dismiss the case that was rejected by the judge.
On Monday, a pathologist testified that the wounded prisoner could have died from the stabbing described by other witnesses.
Witnesses at the scene said Gallagher treated the boy for a leg wound and an apparent case of blast lung from the concussion of the air strike. The patient was sedated and given a breathing tube.
He was breathing normally after the procedure when Gallagher suddenly pulled out his personal knife and stabbed him, witnesses said.
A fixed-blade knife with a distinct black and tan wooden handle that matched the weapon described by witnesses was shown to the jury and identified by NCIS Special Agent Chris Leiphart as being seized from Gallagher’s belongings.
Dr. Frank Sheridan said depending on the location of the stab wounds, the captive could have died from profuse internal or external bleeding.
However, he couldn’t determine a cause of death because of a lack of evidence. There was no body, no photos of a knife wound and only photos and video shot by other SEALs — not investigators.
His testimony, though, countered a statement offered last week by another SEAL who stunned the court when he confessed to the killing.
Corey Scott testified Thursday that he killed the victim by plugging his breathing tube after Gallagher unexpectedly stabbed the fighter twice in the neck while treating him for injuries suffered in an air strike outside Mosul in 2017.
Scott testified that the militant, described as an adolescent boy, would have survived the stabbing. Scott previously told investigators that there was nothing he could do to save the boy’s life.
On the witness stand, Scott said he decided to asphyxiate the captive because he assumed he would later be tortured and killed by Iraqi forces who captured him and brought him to Navy medics for treatment.
Warpinski testified Monday that Scott told him Gallagher stabbed the boy multiple times.
Gallagher later texted a photo of the corpse to friends with the following message: “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
His lawyers said the message was an attempt at dark humor.
They accused Gallagher’s former troop mates of lying to get Gallagher ousted from the special forces because they didn’t like his tough leadership.
Dozens of congressional Republicans have voiced support for Gallagher and brought his case to President Donald Trump’s attention.
Trump had Gallagher moved from the brig to better confinement conditions at a Navy hospital and is reportedly considering a pardon for the decorated sailor. A judge later released Gallagher from custody before the trial started.
Brian Melley reported from Los Angeles.