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Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher Found Not Guilty Of Murder By Military Jury


We have a verdict in the war crimes trial of a Navy SEAL charged with killing a detained 17-year-old ISIS fighter. Chief Edward Gallagher was also charged with posing with the fighter's body for a photograph and with firing his sniper rifle at civilians. Reporter Steve Walsh of member station KPBS has covered this trial from the beginning. He joins us now from San Diego. Hey, Steve.

STEVE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So Gallagher had faced seven charges in all. This was a court-martial with a military jury. What did that jury decide?

WALSH: The jury decided to declare him not guilty on the six of the seven charges, including all of the most serious war crimes - the murder, premeditated murder, for stabbing a wounded detainee and attempted murder for using his sniper rifle at an elderly man and a young woman.

KELLY: So just that single count - and was Gallagher in the courtroom? Describe the scene as this verdict was read out.

WALSH: He was in the courtroom, and now, he was convicted of posing with the dead body on the battlefield. But as these charges are being read out in court, it's fairly complex, and there's a number of stipulations. So it wasn't apparent - immediately apparent which charge he had been convicted of. So there was still a certain amount of tension in the room, though afterwards his attorney came out here briefly and said this was a huge victory. Some of his supporters have come out, and they've been absolutely jubilant. The way it works in a military court, they go right into the sentencing phase. So he'll be sentenced on this, and that's happening really right now. Afterwards, he's expected to come out with his attorney, so we'll know much more about his mood, but I imagine jubilant.

KELLY: You mentioned how this will play among his supporters and among his critics, and this case has been so wrapped up in politics. President Trump weighed in before the trial began. Just remind us the backdrop here.

WALSH: So his wife and his brother have made the circuits of conservative media. At one point, President Trump tweeted that he should be removed from the brig pending trial. And that, in fact, did happen. And there has been a situation even before the trial began where they had to remove the prosecutor because of allegations of spying on the defense because of these email trackers that were put into some emails to track the source of hundreds of pages of leaked documents in the case.

KELLY: So what happens now? What kind of sentence did Gallagher receive for that single count of posing for a photograph?

WALSH: Well, this is the lesser of all of these charges that he was accused of, and it carries a penalty of up to four months. I mentioned that he was in the brig. The judge has already said that he was in there for 201 days. So at the moment, we're - we believe that he's probably going to get time served because the maximum sentence is only four months. Also, this was the only charge that you could not give someone a dishonorable discharge. So he's likely not to face that at least in court. There is a separate administrative process. And so the military could still take action - but no dishonorable discharge.

KELLY: Wow. And that sounds like he could walk quite soon. Steve Walsh reporting there from San Diego, thanks very much.

WALSH: Thanks, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a military reporter, Steve Walsh delivers stories and features for TV, radio and the web.