The attorney for a Navy SEAL charged with murder says his client has been targeted by younger SEALs who want to get rid of him.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Eddie Gallagher, 40, is accused of fatally stabbing a prisoner, posing for a photo next to a corpse, shooting at non-combatants and then intimidating other SEALs so they would not report him while deployed in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Gallagher’s attorney, Tim Parlatore, told the court Friday that a small group of younger SEALs wanted to get rid of their chief and they found a way to do that.
“This entire case was built on a small group of people that had personal animosity towards Eddie Gallagher,” Parlatore said, adding the animosity stemmed from Gallagher being an “old school, hard-charging warrior.”
“The younger millennial SEALs were just there to say they were SEALs,” Parlatore said.
Testimony is scheduled to continue Monday. The prosecution has said it’s possible it will rest its case Tuesday or Wednesday.
Two more witnesses say Gallagher shot at civilians
Among the witnesses to testify Friday was Dalton Tolbert, a member of SEAL Team 7 who served with Gallagher in Mosul in 2017.
Tolbert said he fired a warning shot at an old man during a sniper mission with Gallagher. According to the testimony, as the old man ran away, a shot was taken by another sniper, and the old man fell.
Tolbert said he heard a voice that sounded like Gallagher’s over the radio say, “you guys missed him but I got him.”
During cross-examination, the defense asked Tolbert if he knew where Gallagher was shooting from. Tolbert said no.
Tolbert also testified about the ISIS prisoner incident, where Gallagher is accused of stabbing and killing the prisoner. Tolbert said by the time he arrived at the scene, the ISIS prisoner was already dead. Tolbert said later in a meeting at the base he heard Gallagher and others were discuss the incident.
“Gallagher said something along the lines of, ‘I thought you guys were cool with it,’” Tolbert said.
Tolbert was also asked about explicit text messages he sent to other SEALs in a group chat shortly before the start of the trial. The SEALs had been using the group chat to talk about the trial and the attention around it.
“I’m going to burn this m***********g courthouse to the ground,” one of the text messages read, according to the defense team. Other texts read: “Somebody fire this p***y a** f*****g judge” and “This legal process is a joke.”
Tolbert said those text messages were written out of frustration. It is unclear what, if any, impact it will have on the case.
Another Navy SEAL, Joshua Vriens, who served with Gallagher in Mosul, also took the stand Friday.
Vriens testified during a sniper mission with Gallagher, he heard shots fired from Gallagher’s position. Vriens testified he saw four girls between 12 and 14 years old through his rifle scope. Vriens said one of the girls then clutched her stomach and fell. During cross examination by the defense, Vriens said he did not see Gallagher shoot the girl.
SEAL testifies he killed the ISIS fighter, not Gallagher
Friday’s testimony came a day after one of the most stunning moments in the trial, when a medic in Gallagher’s deployment testified he was the one who killed the ISIS prisoner, not Gallagher.
“I suffocated him,” Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, a Navy SEAL medic, said Thursday. “I held my thumb over his trach tube until he asphyxiated.”
“Did Gallagher kill this ISIS terrorist?” a defense attorney asked.
“No,” Scott answered.
Scott, testifying under immunity, also said that he had not admitted to asphyxiating the prisoner in previous interviews with NCIS or with the prosecution. He said he was only doing so now because he was granted immunity, which means he cannot be prosecuted for his testimony.
Still, several witnesses – including Scott himself – said they saw Gallagher stab the prisoner in the neck just before the asphyxiation.
CNN’s Dave Alsup and Margaret Shuttleworth contributed to this report.