SAN DIEGO (CN) – A military jury sentenced Navy SEAL chief Edward Gallagher to four months of confinement Wednesday for posing for a photo with the corpse of an Islamic State Group fighter, the only charge he was convicted of following a two-week court-martial.
The all-male jury of five Marines and two members of the U.S. Navy also reduced Gallagher’s rank from an E7 to an E6, a first class petty officer, meaning he’ll have fewer responsibilities and will receive a smaller salary. He must also forfeit 2/3 of his pay – nearly $2,700 a month – for four months.
With credit for time served before trial, Gallagher won’t spend any more time in the brig. And because of pretrial conditions Gallagher’s attorney Timothy Parlatore argued Wednesday were unfair – including blocking Gallagher’s access to doctor’s appointments, a functioning cellphone and laptop to prepare for trial and aid in his defense – Judge Navy Capt. Aaron Rugh credited 60 days toward the forfeiture sentence so Gallagher will only have to forfeit 2/3 of his pay for 2 months.
In court Wednesday, Gallagher addressed the jurors before they deliberated for a couple hours to decide his sentence. He took “full responsibility” for posing for the photos with the dead IS fighter.
“I put a black eye on the two communities I love the most: the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy,” Gallagher said.
“It’s put my family through two years of hell,” he added. “I’ve always bounced back from my mistakes. I’m ready to give back to this community that has treated me so well.”
Jurors exonerated Gallagher of premeditated murder charges Tuesday, after a day of deliberations in the nationally watched court-martial of war crimes accusations in the 2017 stabbing of an adolescent IS fighter in Mosul, Iraq.
He had faced seven charges and up to life in prison. Jurors convicted him of the least serious charge.
The case garnered national attention due to President Donald Trump’s support of Gallagher and his suggestion he would pardon the SEAL if convicted.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted a congratulatory message to Gallagher which stated: “Congratulations to Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, his wonderful wife Andrea and his entire family. You have been through much together. Glad I could help.”
Another Gallagher supporter, Rep. Duncan Hunter, was seen leaving the courthouse Wednesday though he did not talk to reporters. A few weeks before Gallagher’s trial began Hunter made headlines for claiming he also took photos with dead enemy combatants while he was a Marine.
Navy prosecutor Lt. Brian John asked jurors Wednesday to reduce Gallagher’s rank because he was “the most experienced member of the platoon and he was the individual who allowed those photos to be taken.”
John suggested the photos can be used as propaganda in recruiting IS fighters. He said “a message needs to be sent” to the special warfare community and armed forces.
“The chief, rather than being the center of those photos, should have been the one to stop them,” John said.
When the sentence was read by the jury president, Gallagher tugged at the anchor insignia on his Navy whites, a gesture acknowledging his rank was being reduced.
Gallagher and his wife Andrea Gallagher did not speak to reporters following the sentencing.
It was not immediately clear whether Gallagher would appeal the sentence, which has to be formally approved by the Navy’s convening authority.