CNO Denies Request to Allow Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to Retire a Chief Petty Officer

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Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, left, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Monday, July 1, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)
Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, left, walks with his wife, Andrea Gallagher as they arrive to military court on Naval Base San Diego, Monday, July 1, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Julie Watson)

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher won't get to retire as a chief like his lawyers requested, but the chief of naval operations did stop the combat veteran from being busted all the way down to E-1.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday will allow Gallagher to retire at the rank of E-6, officials said Tuesday. But the CNO otherwise opted to uphold the sentence decided by Gallagher's peers during a summer court-martial in which he was found guilty of unlawfully posing for a photo with a human casualty.

Cmdr. Nate Christensen, Gilday's spokesman, said the CNO "thoroughly reviewed the record of trial" and the clemency request submitted by Gallagher's defense team.

"After careful consideration as the convening authority, Adm. Gilday decided to uphold the sentence as adjudged by a jury of Gallagher's peers, but disapproved the automatic reduction in rate to E-1," Christensen said. "Consequently, Gallagher will remain a First Class Petty Officer (E-6)."

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The CNO's decision was first reported by Task & Purpose on Tuesday.

Gallagher was found not guilty of premeditated murder in July. The Navy SEAL had been accused of allegedly stabbing an Islamic State group fighter and attempting to murder civilians in Iraq.

His case caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who congratulated Gallagher when he was found not guilty. Trump had previously pushed to get Gallagher released from pretrial confinement.

For his role in the photo, Gallagher was sentenced to be reduced in rank to E-6, forfeit four months' of pay, and be confined for four months. Gallagher had already spent more than four months in pretrial confinement, and the military judge cut his fine in half "due to previous time served," according to a Navy official familiar with the case.

But the length of Gallagher's sentence, by law, meant he was slated to be automatically reduced in rank to E-1, the official said.

"By disapproving the automatic reduction to the rank of E-1, Adm. Gilday's decision upholds the jury's sentence and will allow Gallagher to remain as an E-6," the official added.

Timothy Parlatore, Gallagher's attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Parlatore told Task & Purpose he's disappointed Gallagher won't get to retire as a chief petty officer.

"Absent any intervention from the White House, he's gonna retire as an E-6," Parlatore told the outlet. "... It is unfortunate that he has to lose a significant portion of his pension for an offense that is ordinarily handled with a verbal counseling."

Parlatore also appeared to take a swipe at problems in the Navy's legal community Gallagher's case seemed to unearth.

The lead prosecutor was kicked off the case after admitting to sending emails with a tracking mechanism to defense attorneys and a Navy Times editor in an apparent attempt to find out who was communicating with the press. President Donald Trump also rescinded medals awarded to members of the prosecution team for "superb results," even after they lost the case.

Parlatore told Task & Purpose that in a case "so corrupted by illegal conduct on the part of the investigators, prosecutors and the command, it seems Eddie Gallagher is the only one that's going to be held accountable for it."

Related: Navy's Legal Review Is Overdue, Experts Say. But Will It Be Tough Enough?

Gallagher's case prompted top Navy leaders to order a full review of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. The Marine Corps was also told to review its staff judge advocate community.

Results of those reviews are due next month. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Robert Burke said last week that several outside experts have assisted in the Navy's review, which could lead to changes in how the JAG Corps trains, operates and is organized.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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