The controversial war crimes trial of Navy SEAL Edward "Eddie" Gallagher is set to begin Monday after months of disputes between defense lawyers and military prosecutors that have reverberated all the way up to the White House.
Special Operations Chief Gallagher, 39, heads to a court-martial after pleading not guilty to premeditated murder and aggravated assault charges stemming from the alleged killing of a wounded ISIS terrorist and alleged instances of him intentionally firing sniper rounds at civilians in Iraq.
Jury selection begins Monday -- just weeks after a judge booted the military’s lead prosecutor from the case over unsanctioned tracking of the defense team's emails. As part of a remedy, the judge is letting Gallagher’s legal team reject two additional potential jurors without cause during the selection process, according to the Associated Press.
"Over the course of the trial we will expose the false narrative spread by these accusers for what it is… a smear campaign full of lies," read a post put up late last night on a Facebook page connected to his family. "Our team will show that the truth is not only our client’s best defense, but most importantly, that the truth proves SOC Gallagher’s innocence."
The months leading up to Monday's proceedings have been marked with disputes between defense lawyers and military prosecutors over the conditions of Gallagher’s pre-trial treatment. At one point, even President Trump got involved and tweeted Gallagher would be moved to “less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court.”
Gallagher was undergoing a medical screening at Camp Pendleton and was in the process of transitioning to a non-combat advisory role for the Navy SEALs when he was taken into custody in September 2018, his brother Sean said. Gallagher had planned to retire in the spring.
Throughout his 19 years of service, Gallagher earned the Bronze Star with V for Valor twice, a Meritorious Unit commendation and a trio of Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals, among other recognitions and decorations.
He fought in Iraq and Afghanistan several times, reaching the status of what Sean Gallagher described as a “modern-day war hero.”
It was during Gallagher’s final combat deployment, in 2017, that he's alleged to have committed war crimes. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service launched an investigation into Gallagher in April 2018.
Investigators allege that, while a teen ISIS fighter was receiving medical treatment from SEAL medics, Gallagher walked up and stabbed him in his neck and side with a knife, killing the terrorist. Then, they say, he posed for photographs with the fighter’s body, holding his head in one hand and his blade in the other.
Those allegations have been called into question, however, by top Iraqi military officials. Gallagher’s legal team, the Associated Press reported, also plans to call in fellow SEALS during the trial to testify about what happened during that pivotal 2017 deployment.
Multiple people close to Gallagher have described him as being hard on his men. Last year, Sean Gallagher suggested his brother may be in his current legal predicament due to a "few malcontents of guys" alongside him overseas "that didn’t like being reprimanded for not wanting to engage in combat.”
“My brother has been eager for a long, long time now to clear his name and actually have witnesses come and testify on his behalf,” he previously told "Fox & Friends."