SEAL officer accused of concealing war crimes heads to court martial
SAN DIEGO NAVAL BASE — A Navy SEAL officer accused of failing to properly report suspected war crimes committed by one of his men was arraigned in San Diego on Tuesday.
After being briefed on his rights, Lt. Jacob Portier did not plead or choose whether he would seek a jury or court trial, as his civilian lawyer raised questions about a protection order in the case.
“Let’s be clear: he will plead not guilty because he is innocent,” his lawyer Jeremiah Sullivan said after the hearing. Sullivan argued that the investigation into Portier and his unit, SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon, should be closed in order to protect past and future SEAL operations.
“Parade these fighters puts them in danger,” Sullivan said. Whether to restrict information in the case is expected to be resolved sometime next week, according to a timeline discussed by the judge on Tuesday.
Portier is charged with dereliction of duty, disobeying a legal order and making false official statements, according to a previously issued indictment by the Navy. Prosecutors allege Portier failed to properly report his subordinate’s alleged actions, SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of murdering an injured ISIS fighter and shooting innocent civilians in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017.
Portier also allegedly held a Gallagher re-engagement ceremony near the corpse. Asked about it by a superior, according to the indictment, Portier said “there was nothing criminal” about it, but “it was just in bad taste.”
Sullivan told reporters that Portier “never ordered” his men to pose next to the body of a deceased ISIS fighter, but challenged the criminality of holding a reenlistment ceremony in an area of fight. “There is nothing more honorable than a fighter who can re-engage in the battlefield,” Sullivan said.
Military prosecutors dropped one of the charges ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, which alleged Portier had knowledge of the alleged murder and “wrongly withheld” evidence from authorities. “It’s a big deal,” Sullivan told Task & Purpose of the dropping of charges.
When asked if Portier was potentially indicted as a way for the government to “return” him to testify against Gallagher, Sullivan told Task & Purpose, “There is nothing wrong here. He will testify honestly and honestly.
Meanwhile, Gallagher the trial is scheduled for February 19.
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