Corey Scott, a Navy SEAL medic, upended the war crimes court martial proceedings against former SEAL Eddie Gallagher by dramatically claiming that he killed the Islamic State fighter whose death Gallagher is accused of causing.
It’s a moment rarely seen in courtrooms; a prosecution witness claiming he actually committed the crime.
According to Reuters, Scott – who was promptly accused by prosecutors of lying to help save Gallagher – described the death as a so-called mercy killing because he thought the ISIS fighter, a teenager, would be tortured to death by Iraqi forces if he recovered from wounds he had already suffered. The stakes for Gallagher are very high; he faces life in prison if convicted for his actions in Iraq.
“Did Chief Gallagher kill this terrorist?” Scott was asked on the witness stand by one of Gallagher’s lawyers, and he responded, “No,” according to Fox News.
Gallagher’s case has drawn increasing attention because of comments that President Donald Trump has made that lead some people to believe he might be considering a pardon for Gallagher.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Corey Scott Testified That He Saw Eddie Gallagher Stab the Fighter But That Scott Killed Him, Reports Allege
According to The Washington Times, Scott is a Special Operator 1st Class. He testified that he saw Eddie Gallagher stab the teenage fighter with a knife, the newspaper reported.
However, critically perhaps for the defense case, Scott said that Gallagher didn’t kill the fighter or give him life-threatening injuries – he did. Scott testified, the Times reports, that he pulled the air tube out of the fighter, causing his death. CBS News reported that the admission came forth during cross-examination by the defense attorney for Gallagher.
“I knew he was going to die anyway, and wanted to save him from waking up to whatever would have happened to him,” Special Operator Scott said, according to The New York Times, indicating that the Iraqis had tortured and killed captives before.
Scott said he placed his thumb over the tracheal tube of the fighter “until he quit breathing,” CBS News reports. “Why did you kill him?” Gallagher’s attorney asked, to which Scott replied, “because I knew he would die anyway,” according to CBS News.
The prosecutor accused him of lying, according to the Times, arguing that Scott had not given these details before, but he responded that he hadn’t been asked how the fighter died.
2. Corey Scott Received an Immunity Deal for His Testimony
According to the Washington Times, Corey Scott had received an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony.
He’d given six previous interviews without mentioning the version of events he testified to on June 20, the New York Times reported.
According to CBS News, other Navy SEALs who were at the scene where the ISIS fighter died previously testified that Gallagher stabbed the fighter and then posed in front of the body, sending a photo to friends that read: “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”
3. Corey Scott Worked as a SEAL Team Medic & Other Witnesses Testified Against Gallagher
According to Fox News, Corey Scott held the position of a SEAL Team Seven medic.
Eddie Gallagher served in the Navy for 19 years, during which time he was decorated with multiple combat valor awards, including Bronze Stars, the Navy Times reports. He is from Indiana and was a Navy SEAL for 14 years, the news site reports.
Gallagher’s defense team alleges that other SEALS testifying against him were engaged in a mutiny against Gallagher, according to The New York Times.
Among other witnesses testifying to the detriment of Gallagher: Special Operations Chief Craig Miller who alleged he saw Gallagher stab the ISIS fighter “in the jugular at least twice,” causing blood to spurt out that “looking similar to a baby throwing up,” according to The New York Times, which added that Scott had previously told investigators he saw Gallagher stab the captive two or three times but has now downgraded that to one.
4. On the Witness Stand, Scott Acknowledged He Doesn’t Want Gallagher to Go to Jail, Reports Say
The prosecutor in the case challenged Scott after his admission. According to The Washington Post, prosecutors do not plan to drop the murder charge against Eddie Gallagher.
“You can lie about the fact that you killed the ISIS prisoner because you don’t want Chief Gallagher to go to jail,” the prosecutor said, according to Fox News.
“I don’t want him to go to jail,” Scott acknowledged, Fox reported. According to the New York Times, Scott referenced the fact that Gallagher has a wife and family. However, the newspaper also reported that Gallagher could still face life in prison for attempted murder were he to be convicted.
5. Gallagher’s Attorney Alleged ‘Today the Truth Started to Come Out’
“Today the truth started to come out,” said Eddie Gallagher’s Attorney Tim Parlatore, in comments captured on video, after Corey Scott’s surprise turn on the witness stand. “…This is a shoddy investigation. No investigator, no prosecutor ever asked the question of what is the cause of death. They didn’t even go and hire a forensic pathologist until after they had charged him and thrown him in jail.”
He added, “Today for the first time, somebody went to one of these witnesses and actually asked the real question. What is the cause of death? And what we learned is that Chief Gallagher is not guilty of murder.”
He said he expected a not guilty verdict but that the trial will continue.
President Trump has previously made comments that he might consider pardoning some U.S. service members accused of war crimes, and many believe Eddie Gallagher is one of those who could make that list.
“Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard and long,” Trump said. “We teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometimes they get really treated very unfairly. So we’re going to take a look at it. It’s very possible that I’ll let the trials go on and I’ll make my decision after.”