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Leaked videos show Navy SEALs describing Eddie Gallagher's conduct, New York Times reports

Posted at 8:41 AM, Dec 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-27 20:18:57-05

(CNN) -- Members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon described their platoon leader, retired Special Operations Chief Eddie Gallagher, as "toxic" and "evil," according to video recordings of the interviews obtained by The New York Times.

Gallagher's war crimes case gained national attention after President Donald Trump controversially intervened on his behalf, ignoring Pentagon leaders who had told the President such a move could damage the integrity of the military judicial system.

"The guy is freaking evil," Special Operator First Class Craig Miller said of Gallagher during his interview with Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents, the Times reported.

"You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving," Special Operator First Class Corey Scott said of his former platoon leader, the newspaper reported.

"The guy was toxic," Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens told investigators, the report said.

In the videos obtained by the Times, the platoon members accuse Gallagher of shooting at a 12-year-old, refer to Gallagher as a "psychopath," and tell of rumors that Gallagher had targeted civilians.

The video interviews were included in a hoard of Navy investigative materials the Times received about the prosecution of Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes. They provide rare insight into the elite force with a code of silence -- and into the men of Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7 who have never spoken publicly about the case against their former platoon leader. The SEALs declined to comment to the Times.

"My first reaction to seeing the videos was surprise and disgust that they would make up blatant lies about me, but I quickly realized that they were scared that the truth would come out of how cowardly they acted on deployment," Gallagher said in a statement.

"I felt sorry for them that they thought it necessary to smear my name, but they never realized what the consequences of their lies would be. As upset as I was, the videos also gave me confidence because I knew that their lies would never hold up under real questioning and the jury would see through it. Their lies and (Naval Criminal Investigative Service's) refusal to ask hard questions or corroborate their stories strengthened my resolve to go to trial and clear my name."

Timothy Parlatore, Gallagher's lawyer, said the SEALs' interviews contained falsehoods and inconsistencies that formed "a clear road map to the acquittal."

Parlatore's full statement: "These videos were a treasure trove for a defense attorney because they demonstrated all of the holes in the witnesses’ false stories, as well as the utter incompetence of the investigators. There were sections where the video inexplicably cut off, sections where you could hear the investigator coaching the witness in the hall, and probably the most unprofessional witness interview technique that any of us have ever seen. We later found out that two of the NCIS agents nearly came to blows arguing about this entirely improper technique and how it can lead to a false arrest. The interviews really provided us with a clear road map to the acquittal. What is perplexing is why these are being written about now. Navy Times and other journalists have had these for some time, but chose to instead write about the testimony of the witnesses, not the initial debunked statements. Only David Philipps seems to think that these are newsworthy or that he has an “exclusive” by writing about something that was already in the possession of many and passed on. Philipps’ persistent desire to ignore the facts of this case to continue to publish false and misleading articles, months after the acquittal demonstrates clear bias and actual malice, which is why my client has instructed me to prepare a lawsuit against him and the New York Times."

A decorated SEAL team leader, Gallagher was convicted in July of bringing discredit to the armed services after posing in a photo next to a dead ISIS fighter's body in 2017 in Iraq, which is against regulations. He was acquitted of premeditated murder in the death of the ISIS prisoner in Iraq.

Gallagher was then demoted in rank -- a decision Trump reversed in a move that angered military officials and led to a review of Gallagher's status in the elite group.

Gallagher retired from the Navy on November 30 as planned.