One day after former Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was found not guilty on charges of killing an ISIS prisoner during an Iraq deployment, he was sentenced on a lesser charge of wrongfully posing for an unofficial picture with a human casualty.
His ranking was reduced from E7, which is chief petty officer, to E6, first class petty officer.
This could mean a significant pay reduction including his retirement money. Gallagher, a decorated Navy SEAL, was also sentenced to four months' confinement but walked away a free man because of time served in the Brigg before trial.
"I put a black eye on the two communities that I love -- the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy -- specifically the SEAL community," he said in court on Wednesday. "I've made mistakes in my 20 years -- tactical, ethical, moral. I'm not perfect but I've always bounced back from my mistakes and I will bounce back."
Tim Parlatore, an attorney for Gallagher, said that Gallagher would be retiring.
"This has been a long and difficult process for him. He's been exonerated of the most significant charges and it's time for him to go be with his family," Partalore said Wednesday. "It was a regretful decision to pose in the photos. It’s something that obviously if he could take that back, he would."
Gallagher and his wife, Andrea Gallagher, had initially told the media they would make remarks after the sentencing hearing but instead walked to their car.
Gallagher wished the media a Happy Fourth of July and when asked about the sentence he said: "I feel fine. It's all right."
He'd been facing a court-martial on charges of murdering the ISIS prisoner in 2017. He was found not guilty of the murder charge on Tuesday.
He and his wife did speak to "Fox and Friends" on Wednesday morning in an exclusive interview to thank his supporters, including President Donald Trump, who'd moved him in March from the Brig to a less restrictive confinement while he awaited trial.
"They tried to frame me as a criminal from the get-go but, you know, we knew the truth the whole time," Gallagher said. "We knew I was innocent of these charges the whole time."
During his war crimes trial in a San Diego courtroom, prosecutors described Gallagher as a soldier who regularly shot at civilians and accused him of killing an ISIS prisoner in 2017 by stabbing him in the neck. Defense lawyers argued that no blood evidence was ever found on Gallagher’s belongings and that there were no videos of the alleged incidents.
They further argued that the platoon was disgruntled with Gallagher and fabricated the allegations against him.
In a shocking twist during the trial, however, Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a Navy medic, testified he saw Gallagher stab the ISIS prisoner, but that it was Scott who suffocated the prisoner to death as an act of mercy.
Scott said he "wanted to save" the prisoner from the fate he would face if turned over to Iraqi authorities, adding "I knew he was going to die anyway," according to the New York Times.
Scott said the ISIS prisoner was stabilized after he and Gallagher treated him for wounds suffered in an airstrike.
Gallagher allegedly stabbed the prisoner, and Scott testified that he would have lived through the stabbing had Scott not suffocated him, according to the AP. During Scott’s testimony, prosecutor Lt. Brian John reiterated several times that Scott had never said this before.
John told the courtroom that Scott had immunity and suggested that he was claiming to have killed the ISIS prisoner to prevent Gallagher from going to prison.
The AP reported that Scott responded, "Yes."
The prosecution presented several text messages Gallagher sent his platoon, including one that allegedly read "I've got a cool story when I get back, I got him with my hunting knife."
"I thought everyone would be cool, next time I will do it so no one sees," Gallagher wrote to his platoon, once they allegedly turned on him. "Ready to kill the mother ------ who tells on me and I've got s--- on all of you to bring you down."
The Associated Press contributed to the reporting in this story.