LOS ANGELES >> Military prosecutors seeking the source of news leaks in the case of a Navy SEAL accused of murder misled a judge to get permission to track emails sent to defense lawyers and a journalist, an attorney said today after reviewing newly released investigation documents.
Navy investigators and the prosecutor didn’t get warrants or the necessary approval from higher-ups to investigate civilians, attorney Tim Parlatore told The Associated Press. They also snooped on emails of military lawyers and judges in the case.
“Everything I’ve suspected turned out to be true,” Parlatore said. “The prosecutor did participate in the spying on the defense. … the prosecutor did lie to the court.”
Parlatore, who represents Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher at his court martial, declined to provide details, saying he would do so Wednesday in a San Diego military courtroom.
Gallagher is charged with killing a wounded Islamic State prisoner under his care in Iraq in 2017 and then holding his re-enlistment ceremony with the corpse.
Dozens of Republican congressmen have championed Gallagher’s cause, claiming he’s an innocent war hero being unfairly prosecuted. President Donald Trump got him moved from the brig to better confinement in a military hospital with access to his lawyers and family.
Revelations about the extent of the leak probe come amid efforts by defense lawyers to have prosecutors and judge removed just a week before Gallagher is scheduled to face trial at Naval Base San Diego.
The documents — about 180 pages of investigation reports — were turned over to Parlatore in advance of the hearing on whether to put the case on hold while he finds out what prosecutors and the judge knew before allowing the targeting of defense lawyers and Navy Times editor and reporter Carl Prine.
A Navy spokesman says the government wouldn’t comment before the hearing.
Defense lawyers accuse prosecutors of misconduct by spying on communications and say that may have violated the sacred attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors said Gallagher fatally stabbed a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter and also shot two civilians in Iraq and opened fire on crowds.
Gallagher has pleaded not guilty to all counts. His lawyers said he did not murder anyone and disgruntled SEALs made the accusations because they wanted to get rid of a demanding platoon leader.
Gallagher’s platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, is fighting charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly conducting Gallagher’s re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse.
Parlatore said the leak investigation also targeted Portier’s civilian attorney, Jeremiah J. Sullivan III and attorney Brian Ferguson, who represents SEAL witnesses in the case.