As a decorated Navy SEAL heads to trial for war crimes, his lead counsel is ready to “annihilate the government’s case.”
Tim Parlatore is representing Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher, a 19-year military veteran who has served eight deployments, and who now stands accused of shooting at civilians and killing an ISIS combatant receiving medical attention.
The prosecutors on the case have found themselves mired in controversy, as the judge found them guilty of spying on the defense. In an interview on Brian Ross Investigates, Parlatore told Brian Ross of the Law&Crime Network that “The [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and the lead prosecutor Chris Czaplak violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments by putting illegal tracking software on two emails that they sent to defense attorneys and to a member of the media.” In a highly unusual move, Czaplak, along with another prosecutor assigned to the case, were removed by the judge and Gallagher was released from custody at the end of May as a partial remedy.
Parlatore claims that the charges stem from “a couple of disgruntled individuals” who were discontented with Gallagher’s leadership style.
Although it is rare for Navy SEALs to testify against each other, Parlatore predicts a rise in such instances. He notes, “we have a generational gap between these younger SEALs who think that they know better than the older more experienced leadership and just because they can’t get what they want, they feel like they need to go in and make false complaints.”
Parlatore believes such careerism is at the heart of the allegations against his client: “I’m absolutely saying that they’re lying. I’m looking forward to cross-examining them.”
In support of these claims, Parlatore pointed out what he says are contradictions between video evidence of the supposed criminal acts and the recollections of the SEALs making allegations against Gallagher. Parlatore says that these SEALs are “supposed to be our nation’s elite warriors, and yet I look at NCIS videos of them crying as they’re telling stories that when you pull out the video of the actual event, they’re clearly lying about.” He continues, “it’s going to be interesting to see how they can explain that the false story they used to put my client in jail is so starkly different from what the evidence shows at the time.”
A text message sent by Gallagher along with a picture of the alleged ISIS victim says “I got him with my hunting knife,” but Parlatore dismisses these and other seemingly damning messages as part of the dark humor typical of combat environments. “One feature within the SEAL teams–within any special operations or combat unit–is that there is a lot of dark humor. And so to a certain extent they’ve tried to take some of that dark humor out of context and put it out there as fact.”
The shocking nature of the charges–and the strong protests of innocence made by Eddie’s wife, Andrea Gallagher, and his brother, Sean Gallagher, in media interviews–have garnered widespread attention. A “Free Eddie Gallagher” Facebook page has garnered more than 35,000 likes.
The case has even made its way to the White House, as President Donald Trump tweeted about the case in March, intervening to move Eddie Gallagher from the Naval Consolidated Brig in Miramar, California, where he had been held for over six months, to more comfortable accommodations.
Media reports have swirled that Trump may consider a pardon, although Parlatore was coy on the issue. “My only source of information on that is the news media. We have not reached out to the White House. We have not in any way asked for a pardon. Our focus is on going into the courtroom and winning this in the court,” he said.
Parlatore is confident about his client’s chances as the trial starts next week. Even though the judge refused to dismiss the charges, Parlatore says that “he removed these prosecutors, he released my client from custody, he gave us additional peremptory challenges [for jury selection]. And he also took the maximum penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole off the table. So we’re set up in a really good position to go into this trial.”
[Image via Law&Crime Network]