A Navy SEAL witness could face a perjury charge after testifying that he — and not Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher— had killed a young Islamic State prisoner in Iraq, according to an email sent to a lawyer for the witness.
Officials are considering charging Special Operator 1st Class Corey Scott with lying under oath during Gallagher’s court-martial, according to an email sent Tuesday by Navy Capt. Donald King, a lawyer for the senior commander who convened the war crimes proceedings.
Scott “testified directly contrary to previous official statements — thus exposing him to prosecution,” the email said. Scott’s lawyer, Brian Ferguson, forwarded King’s email to the Associated Press, but did not immediately comment on its contents.
Scott, a medic, shocked the courtroom last week after he admitted to the killing, saying he plugged the militant’s breathing tube after Gallagher stabbed the boy as an act of mercy because he feared he would be tortured and possibly killed by Iraqi forces if he survived.
Navy officials said Scott told them before his testimony that he sat with the wounded prisoner until he took his last breath, but he never mentioned plugging the breathing tube.
In the courtroom, defense lawyers went on the offensive in the San Diego murder trial of Gallagher, a Bronze Star recipient charged with killing the militant and shooting at civilians in Iraq.
The prosecution rested its case a day earlier, after the judge rejected a defense request to issue a summary judgment finding Gallagher not guilty of murder and attempted murder.
Gallagher’s superior, Master Chief Petty Officer Brian Alazzawi, testified Wednesday that a SEAL team member told him in October 2017 that the platoon chief had stabbed a prisoner during their deployment to Iraq in May of that year. Alazzawi said the alleged war crime wasn’t reported up the chain of command until January 2018 — when he got word that several SEALs had planned to go as high as the Navy commodore over the matter because nothing was being done.
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Craig Miller was “very emotional” when he reported the stabbing, Alazzawi said. Miller explained that he was coming forward a year after they had returned from deployment because Gallagher was being nominated for a Silver Star and promoted to being an instructor. Alazzawi said Miller told him he also feared some SEAL teammates who were “good people” could get in trouble, according to the testimony.
Alazzawi said he found Gallagher to be a solid tactical leader, but he also found the allegation made by Miller to be credible.
Some fellow SEALs didn’t share Gallagher’s aggressive attitude, and Vanderpool said he sensed the team was starting to “fracture.”
The defense also planned to show jurors videotaped testimony from an Iraqi general who handed over the fighter to Gallagher for medical treatment after the adolescent was wounded in an airstrike. The general gave videotaped testimony in June when he visited San Diego.
Prosecution witnesses, including a fellow Navy SEAL, testified that Gallagher stabbed the prisoner twice in the neck in May 2017 and that the attack could have been fatal.
Defense lawyers say testimony from the Iraqi general and other witnesses will show Gallagher isn’t guilty. They already have contended that the witnesses against him offered tainted or even false testimony. They have questioned the methodology of the chief investigator and noted the lack of a body or other physical evidence.
Prosecutors called seven SEALs from the platoon to testify in the court-martial at Naval Base San Diego that started a week ago
On Tuesday, a computer specialist testified that Gallagher had texted a photo to a comrade in which he clutched the hair of the dead captive in one hand and a knife in the other.
The specialist also linked Gallagher to a text message sent to a comrade that bragged: “Got him with my hunting knife.”
Defense attorney Timothy Parlatore called the photos of Gallagher posing with the corpse in poor taste, but not criminal. Several of the same SEALs who had testified against Gallagher also posed with the dead body in a platoon photo, he noted.
No blood was found on the knife.
Gallagher, 40, has pleaded not guilty to murder in the case of the prisoner and not guilty to attempted murder for his alleged shooting of a young girl and elderly man in separate incidents outside Mosul. The defense said the shooting incidents were based on the accounts of one SEAL and one former SEAL who never saw Gallagher pull the trigger.
Fellow defense lawyer Marc Mukasey suggested earlier Tuesday that the lead investigator, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Joseph Warpinski, befriended witnesses and encouraged them to speak with each other and go after Gallagher in violation of standard investigation practices.
Warpinski acknowledged making some mistakes in the hundreds of text messages he exchanged with witnesses, but denied making friends with them or encouraging them to discuss the case to get their stories straight or to target the chief. He said he had to build rapport with members of the insular special forces community to earn their trust and cooperation.
Mukasey also suggested Warpinski had not asked pertinent questions of witnesses, such as the cause of death of the captive fighter and why Gallagher, an 18-year veteran and trained medic, would suddenly kill a patient he was treating for battle wounds.
Scott testified that he thought the patient would have survived the stabbing, despite previously telling the prosecution his life could not have been saved.