In spite of testimony that a half dozen Navy SEAL witnesses who agreed to testify against Navy Special Operations Chief Ed Gallagher were offered permits to carry concealed weapons, only one permit has been issued.
Then-Special Operator First Class, now-Chief Petty Officer Craig Miller, who made the first formal complaints against Gallagher months after the deployment ended, got his permit in April.
(The sheriff’s department did not provide information about the brand and type of weapon Miller has permission to carry. The official Special Warfare military-issued handgun is the German-made Sig Sauer P226, but a Navy spokeswoman said that “military issue weapons are for military use only.”)
The offer to carry concealed weapons came out in testimony during the court martial.
Miller was the first to complain to his command about Gallagher, months after the team returned from deployment.
The sheriff's department disputes that the permit was offered, saying that all who seek such a permit must apply and qualify – the department does not offer them.
Many of the witnesses were not offered the opportunity to apply for concealed weapon permits, sources close to the case say, but the Navy command did offer to issue military protective orders that bar Gallagher from being near or contact with them. Several witnesses are said to have accepted the protective orders.
Gallagher was charged with the premeditated murder of a teen ISIS fighter, two counts of attempted murder, obstructing justice and unlawfully taking photos with the corpse of an ISIS fighter captured by Iraqi military after the Mosul building the fighters were concealed in was hit by two hellfire missiles. The teen was the only survivor.
Many of the SEALs gave testimony that contradicted their earlier statements to Navy investigator Warpinski – including medic Corey Scott’s admission that he, not Gallagher, killed the teenage ISIS fighter by putting his thumb over the breathing tube Gallagher had inserted.
Throughout the trial, the defense emphasized that the SEALs' statements didn’t align with the testimony, suggesting that either the witnesses changed their stories or the Navy investigators initially wrote less than accurate statements.
Gallagher was convicted only of the unlawful photo with the ISIS fighter’s corpse – taken with most of the platoon . A jury of five Marines and two Navy officers – all with deployment experience – found Gallagher not guilty of the most serious charges.
Asked for more information about the concealed weapon permit program, the department’s communications Lt. Justin White decided the question is a public records request that will receive a response “in the statutorily prescribed time period.” The department’s 2017 annual report indicates the department approved 2,065 permits to carry in San Diego County that year.
Attempts to contact the SEAL witnesses’ attorney Brian Ferguson gather the response that he is out of pocket and could not respond.
Testimony during the court martial indicated that Capt. Conor MacMahon and Navy investigator Joe Warpinski offered the permits to some if not all the SEALs who agreed to testify against Gallagher – an offer confirmed by Gallagher’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore.
“What’s the best way to get the loyalty of a SEAL who’s getting cold feet about testifying? Offer him a permit to carry,” Parlatore said.
McMahon was part of the original prosecution team whose lead prosecutor was removed after it became clear that he’d gone ahead with a clandestine effort to track emails to and from the defense team after the military judge hearing the matter directed the prosecutor to the U.S. Attorney’s office where he was told he couldn’t get a warrant to spy on the defense lawyers.
Lawyers for Miller did not respond to messages Tuesday and Wednesday.
During Parlatore’s cross-examination of Miller, the lawyer skewered the newly minted Spec Ops chief for being one of a dozen or so current and former SEALs who’d paid the village volunteer police department in Lake Arthur, New Mexico for police officer badge and credentials that included a weapon permit valid throughout the U.S. An investigation of the Lake Arthur badges and guns by a New Mexico television station found about 100 "reserve officers," most of whom do not live in the state.