A former attorney for a San Diego-based Navy SEAL acquitted of war crimes is trying to force his former client into arbitration to get paid, according to court records.
In the complaint, Texas-based attorney Colby Vokey says Navy SEAL Petty Officer 1st Class Edward Gallagher is in breach of a contract he signed in October and Vokey is seeking $200,000 to $1 million in damages. In that contract, Gallagher apparently agreed to go into arbitration should any attorney-client disputes emerge.
Gallagher signed the document Oct. 11.
Vokey represented Gallagher until mid-March, when another civilian defense attorney, Timothy Parlatore, joined the case.
Parlatore called Vokey’s move “grotesque.”
“The Gallagher family has been through hell, and it is grotesque that Colby Vokey has decided to go after them when the case isn’t even over,” Parlatore said when reached by phone.
Gallagher is waiting on the chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, to finalize the case. Richardson can confirm, vacate or alter the sentence imposed by a San Diego military jury in July.
Gallagher was found not guilty of the most serious charges against him, which included premeditated murder and shooting at civilians while in Iraq in 2017. He was found guilty of posing with the body of an Islamic State fighter, and he was sentenced to a reduction in rank and four months of confinement, which Gallagher served before trial.
Richardson took over as convening authority in Gallagher’s case last week. It is unknown when he might make a decision.
In a post on their joint Instagram account, Gallagher’s wife, Andrea, said her family was being “sued” by their former attorney, Vokey.
“In our hour of need, Colby Vokey and (nonprofit United American Patriots) came in and promised to give Eddie a top-notch legal defense with all expenses paid,” Andrea Gallagher said in the post. “Instead, they dragged the case out, focused more on using our family for fundraising while Colby ran up the bill, and made little to no progress in actually freeing Eddie.”
Vokey declined to comment.
In the post, Andrea Gallagher said Vokey was fired after he “tried to push the trial out to November, we felt that he lied, threatened and extorted our family.”
“We believe if it were up to Colby Vokey, Eddie would still be in the brig with a trial in November or later,” she said in the post.
In addition to hiring Parlatore, the family also hired Marc Mukasey, who also serves as one of President Trump’s personal attorneys. Mukasey said Wednesday that because he and Parlatore don’t normally practice in military court, they were able to deploy a more unrestrained defense.
“It was a really smart move, and a brave move, for Eddie, Andrea and Sean [Edward Gallagher’s brother] to ultimately go with lawyers from outside the system,” Mukasey said. “We were able to take a more aggressive approach, rattle cages that needed to be rattled and hold the government accountable.”
Although Vokey began representing Gallagher as early as the spring of 2018, any contract signed before October was not included in the complaint.
According to the October contract, Vokey and co-counsel Phillip Stackhouse were to be paid $400 an hour. But the contract also says that Gallagher was approved for financial support through United American Patriots, a nonprofit that helps fund legal costs for service members.
“Client has applied for and been accepted for financial support from United American Patriots to cover attorney fees and case expenses,” the contract states.
Vokey is listed on UAP’s website as a member of its advisory board.
In March, after Vokey’s alleged firing, Andrea Gallagher announced on social media that her husband’s defense would no longer raise money via UAP. She directed supporters to donate to the Navy SEALs Fund, another nonprofit that helps Navy SEAL families in need.
As of Wednesday, the Navy SEALs Fund has collected almost $750,000 in donations for Gallagher’s case.
Dyer writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.