The defense attorney for Chief Edward Gallagher, the San Diego-based Navy SEAL facing court-martial for multiple war crimes, met with the judge in the case Monday, NBC 7 has learned.
The meeting came days after The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump was considering a pardon for Chief Gallagher and other service members accused of war crimes before Memorial Day.
Gallagher is accused of killing a captive, injured ISIS fighter and shooting at unarmed civilians while serving in Iraq. Some say that a pardon from the president wouldn't look good for the United States and could undermine the system of military justice.
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“It's clearly a political move, because he doesn't know the facts because the facts haven't been established by the trial,” defense attorney and former JAG Judge Advocate General Doug Brown said.
Brown said the consequences of a pre-trial pardon could put American armed forces in combat zones and countries all over the world at risk, "because if the United States isn't going to follow international law, then [other nations won’t] either."
Gallagher's attorney Tim Palatore told NBC 7 he was surprised by the Times' report of a potential pardon as he prepares for his client's trial to begin.
Palatore also said that the U.S. Navy provided documents to the defense team on Monday related to the tracking software found in emails related to the case. The attorney will be back in military court Wednesday to address what he finds in the documents.
Navy prosecutors have said Gallagher during his eighth deployment indiscriminately shot at Iraqi civilians and stabbed to death a captured Islamic State fighter estimated to be 15 years old. He also posed with the teen's corpse at his re-enlistment ceremony, prosecutors said.
Gallagher is also under investigation for the shooting death of a civilian in Afghanistan in 2010, according to a 439-page document leaked to Times.
In the document are allegations that SEAL team leadership discouraged team members from coming forward to report the alleged incidents.
NBC 7 San Diego has not confirmed the information in the document leaked to the Times, but sources say the U.S. Navy was aware of the incident in Afghanistan.
Gallagher's lawyers have said the allegations were made by disgruntled SEALs out to get Gallagher because he was a demanding leader.
The SEAL has denied the charges and Palatore said his client wants to go to trial to clear his name. His trial is scheduled to begin May 28.
A military officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the case, told NBC 7 there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
The case has garnered national attention, and reaction to the president possibly pardoning Gallagher so far has been mixed among local members of the community with ties to the military.
Robert Chavez, who served overseas in the U.S. Army, said Gallagher’s fate should be decided in court.
Tom Sandonato's son served two tours in Afghanistan, and he fully supports a pardon for Gallagher.