President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he has rescinded awards given to Navy prosecutors days after the court-martial of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher ended with an acquittal on most charges.
Gallagher, 40, had been charged with premeditated murder in connection with the 2017 death of a captive teenage ISIS fighter he was treating for injuries. He also faced charges regarding allegations he shot at civilians and tried to intimidate witnesses.
He was acquitted on July 2 of all charges except one — a charge for posing for a photo with the fighter’s corpse. He was reduced a rank to E-6.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that on July 10, three prosecutors involved in the case received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
The military news website Task & Purpose reported that the awards were for performing “above their normal duties.”
Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to criticize the prosecutors and announce he was rescinding the awards.
“The Prosecutors who lost the case against SEAL Eddie Gallagher (who I released from solitary confinement so he could fight his case properly), were ridiculously given a Navy Achievement Medal,” Trump said in a tweet.
“Not only did they lose the case, they had difficulty with respect … to information that may have been obtained from opposing lawyers and for giving immunity in a totally incompetent fashion,” the President said. “I have directed the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer & Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson to immediately withdraw and rescind the awards … I am very happy for Eddie Gallagher and his family!”
A Navy official confirmed the Secretary of the Navy was rescinding the awards, according to the Union-Tribune.
In his series of tweets, Trump referenced allegations of misconduct against the former lead prosecutor in the case, Cmdr. Chris Czaplak, who worked with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to secretly send email trackers to defense attorney weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin in May, the newspaper reported.
Czaplak was removed from the case and the trial was delayed.
In his ruling on the misconduct, the judge, Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh, said Czaplak’s fellow prosecutors had no knowledge of the email tracking tool — in fact, Czaplak initially tested the tool by sending his co-counsel emails with the trackers without them knowing.
The judge did not find those prosecutors — whose awards were later stripped — had engaged in any misconduct. Czaplack did not receive an award.
— City News Service