Navy Officer Demoted Following Conviction for Taking Photo Beside Dead Prisoner’s Body

Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was sentenced by a military jury to a demotion and reduction in pay following a conviction for taking a photo beside a dead prisoner’s body. The Navy SEAL was acquitted of the more serious charge of murder in the case of the death of a 17-year-old ISIS prisoner.

On July 2, 2019, Navy SEAL Gallagher was acquitted of 6 more serious charges in a war crimes trial. These were all for acts he allegedly committed in Mosul, Iraq in 2017, while fighting ISIS. He was also charged with attempted murder for shooting at two civilians with his sniper rifle, as well as firing into a crowd of civilians.

Gallagher posed for a photo standing over the dead prisoner’s body. He then sent the photo by text to a fellow Navy SEAL with the message “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”  This led to the only charge that resulted in a guilty verdict. The charge was “wrongfully pos[ing] for an unofficial picture with a human casualty.”

Gallagher’s defense attorneys argued that his text messages were merely an attempt at dark comedy in a stressful situation. The prosecution had secured several witnesses to give testimony. The defense said that these were junior members of Gallagher’s platoon who had turned against him because they didn’t like his leadership style.


The Motives Behind Navy SEALs Turning On One of Their Own

This past April, Navy Times wrote an article which examined the possible motivations that lead some SEALs to turn on one of their own. The Navy SEALS are a close-knit community of elite military that would not typically testify against each other, especially not for war crimes.

The Navy Times article states that some SEALs wanted to block Gallagher’s promotion to senior chief. Others were angry that he had been recommended for the Silver Star which they felt he didn’t deserve. Other SEALs thought Gallagher was tactically incompetent and temperamentally unfit to lead.

Investigators had no bodies and, therefore, no autopsy reports. There was also missing GoPro video footage. Some photos and videos were available, but they were fragmented and not conclusive. This was a case that was going to require witness testimony. Some of the witnesses said they would assert their fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

In a shocking turn, a witness for the prosecution, who initially said he witnessed Gallagher drive a knife into the prisoner’s neck, said that he was the one to kill the prisoner by closing off the prisoner’s breathing tube after Gallagher had left the scene. The witness said he did this as a mercy killing.

The Complete Sentence

The complete sentence handed down by the military jury was for a demotion and reduction in pay, as well as four months confinement, which was the maximum time allowed. Gallagher will not serve any additional time because he was confined to the brig for 201 days while awaiting trial. The sentence also included partial pay for four months, which was reduced to two months because of the time served.

The demotion and reduction in pay come just before he will reach his 20-year service mark and will have an impact on his pension as well. Gallagher is a Bronze Star recipient who was serving his eighth deployment at the time the incidents in question occurred.  If you’ve been charged with a crime and need help, call San Diego Military Defense Attorneys today for help.