A US Navy SEAL accused of war crimes including stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS militant to death was last night found not guilty of murder.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 40, was cleared of all charges on Tuesday – except posing for a photo with the captive’s corpse.
7 Eddie Gallagher, centre, with wife Andrea, left, following his murder acquittal in San Diego on TuesdayCredit: Getty Images – Getty
7 Brave Navy SEAL Gallagher was accused by members of his own platoon of murdering an ISIS captiveCredit: Fox News
It took a military jury of five Marines and two sailors about nine hours over two days to reach the verdict in San Diego.
The maximum sentence for the photo is four months – meaning Gallagher walked free after spending nine months in pre-trial custody.
Outside the court, a delighted Gallagher greeted the media alongside his smiling wife Andrea, saying: “I’m happy and I’m thankful.
“I thank God, my legal team and my wife”.
He later joked with his legal team that it’s his “Independence Day” – two days before the US July 4 celebrations.
I was feeling like we’re finally vindicated after being terrorised by the government that my husband fought for for 20 yearsAndrea GallagherWife
His wife Andrea said they are now looking forward to freedom, telling reporters: “We just want to celebrate today.
“I was feeling like we’re finally vindicated after being terrorised by the government that my husband fought for for 20 years.
“If this was a movie no one would believe it.”
Gallagher’s lawyer Marc Mukasey said: “Suffice it to say this is a huge victory” – adding that his client reacted with “tears of joy, emotion, freedom and absolute euphoria.”PLATOON MUTINY
During the two-week trial, jurors had to decide whether Gallagher had killed the captive or whether he was being framed by members of his platoon to stop him from getting a Silver Star.
Seven SEALs had said Gallagher – a 19-year-veteran on his eighth deployment – stabbed the ISIS teen in Iraq moments after he was treated by US medics on May 3, 2017, after being injured in an airstrike.
Two said they saw Gallagher plunge his knife into the prisoner’s neck.
But defence lawyers argued Gallagher – a Bronze Star recipient – had been framed in the death of the prisoner in a “mutiny” by disgruntled platoon members.
They repeatedly argued that there was no forensic evidence to support the allegations – and that the captive could have died from injuries sustained in the airstrike.
Prosecutors claimed Gallagher’s own text messages and photos incriminated him – including one of him holding the dead militant by the hair and clutching a knife in his other hand.
The gruesome image sent to one of Gallagher’s friends was accompanied by the text message: “I got a cool story for you when I get back.
“I got him with my hunting knife.”
But the defence waved off the photos as just the dark humour of a warrior.
It was revealed during the trial that nearly all the platoon members posed for pictures with the dead prisoner.
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And in a shocking twist, Special Operator Corey Scott admitted he was the one who ultimately killed the prisoner by plugging his breathing tube with his thumb as an act of mercy.
Gallagher, who maintained his innocence, could have faced life in prison if he’d been found guilty of the most serious charge against him – premeditated murder.
He also was acquitted of attempted murder in the wounding of two Iraqi civilians – a schoolgirl and an elderly man – from a sniper’s perch, as well as obstruction of justice and other offences.
7 Gallagher celebrates with his wife Andrea after calling his acquittal his own ‘Independence Day’Credit: AP:Associated Press
7 Andrea Gallagher said her family had been ‘terrorised’ by the US governmentCredit: John Gastaldo All Rights Reserved
7 Gallagher was accused of plunging his knife into the throat of an injured teen ISIS fighterCredit: AP:Associated Press
7 Gallagher received the Bronze Star for his war serviceCredit: Fox News
7 The Navy SEAL was cleared of murder – but convicted of posing for a photo with a dead ISIS fighterCredit: Reuters
Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher denies slitting throat of 15-year-old ISIS member in Iraq before posing for photos with teen’s corpse
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