Former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher is suing the Navy, claiming they leaked 500 pages of confidential documents from the Navy's criminal investigation against him, in an attempt to influence his murder trial.
Gallagher was acquitted of indiscriminately firing at civilians and murdering an ISIS prisoner in Iraq in 2017. He was only convicted for posing for a photo with the teen's body.
The civil lawsuit filed in San Diego, California on Friday named new Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite and New York Times journalist David Phillips, the latter whom published 28 stories claiming Gallagher's attorneys presented false information.
Gallagher claims the Navy gave Phillips 'witness interview summaries and seized text messages' from the criminal investigation and 'a complete list of other SEALs that Chief Gallagher had deployed with on prior occasions' so that the journalist could get in touch.
Former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher is suing the Navy, claiming officials leaked documents to a journalist to try to influence his trial
New York Times journalist David Phillips is the second defendant and Gallagher claims he fabricated stories. He is pictured getting a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. Phillips wrote 28 articles about Gallagher and is currently writing a book about him
The civil lawsuit filed in San Diego, California on Friday named new Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite, who was sworn into the role Friday, the same day as the lawsuit
The lawsuit claims the Navy violated the Privacy Act and unlawfully disclosed a 'mother lode' of Chief Gallagher's private information to Philipps – who is a Pulitzer Prize-wining journalist.
Gallagher's attorney Tim Parlatore, a former naval surface warfare office, claims Phillips 'worked in earnest' to frame him in a 'false negative light'. He claims the help came from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Navy's prosecution team, and Naval Special Warfare Command.
The filing states that 'corrupt Navy officials' hoped 'negative publicity would help to pressure Chief Gallagher into taking a plea, as well as to influence any potential jury pool'.
'Navy officials presented David Philipps with a golden egg,' the lawsuit alleges. 'They would illegally provide him with certain protected documents, in clear violation of the Privacy Act and court orders, so that Philipps could write a damning portrayal of Chief Gallagher, with reckless disregard for the truth.'
Gallagher claims that Phillips' stories fabricated that he regularly opened fire in civilian areas, saying he fired around 'neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.'
It also claims the journalist made up witnesses and a story that he tried to run over a Navy police officer in 2014.
As a result of posing for a picture with the dead teen, Gallagher was de-ranked in July 2019. However Donald Trump restored his rank in 2019.
The lawsuit claims the journalist made up witnesses and a story that he tried to run over a Navy police officer in 2014. It claims the Navy violated his privacy by supplying 500 pages from their criminal investigation into his alleged acts. Gallagher says he received death threats, suffered 'significant mental and emotional anguish', and had higher court fees
Gallagher says as a result he received death threats and has suffered 'significant mental and emotional anguish'.
He claims it resulted in him having to pay for therapy and claims the stories also resulted in additional court costs.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.
The New York Times defended the reporting in a statement to the Military Times.
'Mr. Gallagher's complaint is long on conspiracy theory and very short on facts about what actually happened in Iraq,' Danielle Rhoades Ha, the Times' vice president of communications said.
'Dave Philipps did what any good journalist should: he accurately reported on a criminal trial, including testimony that implicated Mr. Gallagher in the death of a man. Nowhere in a 40-page complaint does Mr. Gallagher deny his role in the killing.'
The Navy declined to comment citing pending litigation reasons.
The photo: Gallagher was charged in 2018 with war crimes after he posed for a now-infamous photo with the corpse of an Iraqi prisoner during a deployment to Iraq
Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher celebrates with his wife Andrea at Naval Base San Diego July 2, after being acquitted of the premeditated murder of an ISIS prisoner. He was also cleared of firing into civilian areas
As a result of posing for a picture with the dead teen, Gallagher was de-ranked in July 2019 (pictured). However Donald Trump restored his rank in November 2019
Gallagher's attorney said they specifically left the New York Times out of the lawsuit because of they believe 'Phillips was lying to his editors in order to be able to put out stories with minimum fact-check'.
The attorney responded to NBC 7 about the publication's comment: 'Given that comment, I have to wonder. Whether that's true, I have to wonder whether the New York Times, at least other individuals at the New York Times were trying to help him put out something false or if he was that good at lying.'
Gallagher said he was suing because he wants to be an example to other military members.
'We are fighting back,' Gallagher told NBC 7 Investigates in a June 1 interview from his home in Florida. 'If I had just backed down and let him keep doing this, I would be doing a disservice to former combat veterans and to future sailors and servicemembers.'
The lawsuit was filed on the same day Braithwaite was sworn in as Secretary.
His attorney told the Military Times that it is 'pure coincidence'.
Phillips is currently writing a book about Gallagher.
'Dave Phillips from the New York Times became quite obsessed with my story,' Gallagher said. 'He was writing articles and putting out a lot of false information. And then even after the trial, he continues to do so. He was stalking my wife's social media all while he continued to write articles [to] get misinformation out there.'
Gallagher says as a result he received death threats and has suffered 'significant mental and emotional anguish'
Before the trial began, Gallagher sued the Navy for using tracking software to spy on his emails and alleged they leaked information to a Navy Times journalist. It led to prosecutor Cmdr. Chris Czaplak being taken off the trial and a judge ordering for Gallagher to be released from custody.
Findings stated Gallagher's Fourth and Sixth Amendments were violated, which led to his maximum possible sentence to be reduced from life without parole to life with parole.
Gallagher's attorney firmly believes he's win the new lawsuit.
'It's not really a question of whether we're going to win,' Parlatore told NBC. 'It's just a question of how much information we're going to find. There is no question that [confidential] documents were leaked. So I'm not really concerned about that.
'We are going to be able to find out the individuals who did it and the only way that the Navy can avoid having those individuals identified is by coming forward with a pretty large settlement offer from the beginning. Now we're on offense. Now we're coming after the Navy and the individuals who broke the law in order to try and put an innocent man in jail for the rest of his life.'