By Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Navy SEAL who was acquitted of killing a wounded Islamic State captive but convicted of posing with the corpse told a military jury considering his punishment Wednesday that he has made “tactical, ethical, moral” mistakes but learned from them.
Special Operator Edward Gallagher, who did not testify during his two-week court-martial, addressed the jurors a day after they acquitted him of murder, attempted murder and other counts stemming from an incident during a 2017 deployment to Iraq.
“I put a black eye on the two communities that I love — the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy — specifically the SEAL community,” he said.
He said he tried to lead by example but didn’t always succeed.
“I’ve made mistakes throughout my 20-year career — tactical, ethical, moral — I’m not perfect but I’ve always bounced back from my mistakes. I’m ready to bounce back from this,” he said.
The jury was considering whether Gallagher should face jail time or lesser punishment.
A Navy prosecutor asked only for a reduction in rank, not confinement. The defense noted that Gallagher has already spent 201 days in pretrial confinement and recommended no punishment.
Gallagher told the jury he takes full responsibility for his actions on the day he took photos with the body of the 17-year-old militant.
One image shows him clutching the hair of the corpse with one hand and holding a knife in another.
The photos were taken after Gallagher and other SEALs provided medical treatment for the captive who was wounded in an air strike in 2017 and handed over by Iraqi forces.
The prosecutor, Lt. Brian John, said Gallagher was the platoon chief and should not have been the centerpiece of the photos in which nearly all the members posed with the body. John said Gallagher should have stopped the photos from being taken.
“For that reason, he no longer deserves to wear anchors,” the prosecutor said, referring to the insignia worn by chiefs. A reduction in rank would drop him to senior enlisted officer and reduce his pay.
John said the photos had the potential to be used as propaganda by Islamic State and be harmful to U.S. forces overseas.
Tuesday’s verdict clearing Gallagher of the most serious charges was met with an outpouring of emotion.
President Donald Trump, who intervened earlier this year to have Gallagher moved from the brig to less restrictive confinement, tweeted congratulations to the SEAL and his family.