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Supervisor of Navy SEAL accused of murder faces charges

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Posted at 10:27 AM, Jan 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-22 22:36:41-05

SAN DIEGO (AP and KGTV) - The Navy officer who supervised a SEAL accused of fatally stabbing an Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 is due in a military court to face various offenses next week, including allegedly conducting the SEAL's re-enlistment ceremony next to the corpse and encouraging enlisted personnel to pose for photos with the body, prosecutors said.

Lt. Jacob Portier plans to plead not guilty to all charges during a court martial at Naval Base San Diego, said his attorney, Jay Sullivan. Portier also is accused of failing to report a war crime, destroying evidence and impeding the investigation of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher.

"You’re going to find out through the process of hearing the evidence that he’s innocent, that he didn’t commit any offenses, and I think it will be clear,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Navy prosecutors have not provided photos that show Portier in any of them and he said conducting a re-enlistment ceremony in a war zone is not new.

"Battlefield re-enlistment ceremonies have been done since World War I," he said. "Our fighters are proud to serve our country in harm's way."

RELATED: Navy SEAL faces charges in killing of detained ISIS fighter

Portier was the officer in charge of Gallagher's platoon during the deployment.

Gallagher pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges of premediated murder and other offenses, including opening fire on crowds of Iraqi civilians, and shooting a female and a male in separate incidents.

Navy prosecutors have painted a picture of a decorated SEAL going off the rails on his eighth deployment, indiscriminately shooting at Iraqi civilians and stabbing to death a captured Islamic State fighter estimated to be 15 years old. They say he also posed with the corpse, including at his re-enlistment ceremony.

His lawyers have said the allegations were made by disgruntled SEALs out to get Gallagher because he was a demanding platoon leader.

Portier's lawyer said the SEALs have had "extraordinary success" on the battlefield in Iraq. He is concerned the Navy's prosecution of the case in a public court martial could undermine that, hurt morale and reveal information about the highly secretive elite fighters. He wants the State Department to intervene on behalf of national security.

Navy officials have declined to comment on the case.

Gallagher, who has been jailed since his arrest Sept. 11, will stand trial Feb. 19.