Mr. President, the system is broken and we need your help to fix it.
When Roger Stone’s house was raided by the FBI, it sparked conversation and serious questions about the justification of force, the presumption of innocence and the power of the government to bring its endless resources to bear on a private individual.
While many were questioning the aggression and overreach of a government agency towards an American citizen, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Why? Because it’s happening to my family right now – and to a much greater extent.
My brother is Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL and father of three who has served this country for nearly 20 years. His highly decorated record includes eight combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and medals for leadership, good conduct and valor – the kind that you get for clearing 50 stalls in a bazaar in Afghanistan and defending a rooftop solo against a barrage of incoming enemy fire.
On his last deployment to Iraq, Eddie led his platoon in the hellacious battle to take back Mosul from ISIS. Of all the SEAL chiefs deployed during 2017 to fight ISIS, he was named the most professional, and was selected by his superiors to train incoming SEALS. In sum, Ed’s career is a testament to professionalism, gallantry and honor.
Yet, despite a pristine record and reputation, Eddie now stands wrongfully accused of war crimes – of killing a dying ISIS fighter on the battlefield – though there has never been evidence to prove it. As a matter of fact, there are mounds of evidence that exonerate him. Investigators have heard from eyewitnesses who say the event never happened. There is video and photographic evidence that clearly calls into question the accusations. There is also well-documented motive for his accusers to fabricate stories.
Now, I know the reaction to these statements. If all this is true, why is Eddie in this situation? Surely prosecutors would not waste their time on such a murky case. I agree, and could spend pages outlining the perverse motivations of lawyers, a pattern of this type of behavior with Navy prosecutors, and the incompetence of investigators. But let’s skip to the question I typically get after these arguments. If Eddie is innocent, why not let the process play out? Let your brother prove his innocence and clear his name in a system that works.
I thought the same thing. I was wrong.
Consider that Eddie was accused – again, with no evidence – just by statements. It was someone’s word against his. He’s denied everything from the beginning, but denials are not enough to prove a negative.
Yet for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, statements are enough to prosecute a decorated American hero. Last June, they handcuffed and detained Eddie while 15 armed agents raided his home. The only people present were his two sons, one a third-grader and the other a senior in high school. The children were marched out on the street in their underwear with assault rifles pointed in their faces. Sound familiar? No worries, we were told to trust the process.
After the raid, Eddie was released. But he was arrested again on Sept. 11 in the middle of a medical appointment. Thrown in solitary confinement for 3 days, he was finally allowed to call his lawyers so NCIS could watch him unlock his phone and use the passcode to hunt for more evidence. Don’t worry, it’s the process.
Next came a sham hearing to determine whether Eddie needed to be jailed before his trail. Prosecutors can use unsubstantiated claims, asserting them as if they are fact. Eddie, on the other hand, was afforded the opportunity to say only two words: Not guilty. Trust the process.
Now in jail, Eddie is confined with a population of convicted sex offenders, routinely denied access to his lawyers, medical appointments, and visits with his fellow soldiers. This is the process, we’re told.
Next, Eddie’s case was suddenly moved out of the Navy SEAL community so his jury will no longer be his peers. The justification given is the new jurisdiction has better buildings. Process.
The brig where he’s confined begins to isolate him because of all the attention he’s getting. His food is cut, visitors prohibited, and his body begins to wane. All the process.
More preliminary hearings happen – Eddie demands repeatedly to face his accusers, to cross examine them and poke holes in their story, and is denied. Meanwhile, we believe prosecutors have threatened his friends, harassed his teammates, and doled out immunity offers in return for damning statements. This is the process.
Five months went by with no trial. Prosecutors were forced to drop four charges against Eddie due to a lack of evidence and overreach, yet they pressed onward with a remaining few charges that have even less justification. All the process.
To those who think this is hyperbole – that the process can’t be this bad – I used to be like you. But then I saw an innocent man thrown in jail, his named smeared, and his family tormented. I can no longer look back.
Mr. President – you know more than most what it’s like to be on this side of the system, to have your character maligned by lesser men, to see injustice unfold before your eyes, and be told to trust the process. The process is broken. We need your help to fix it.
In a democracy, the greatest check on the overreach of government is the vote. Mr. President this country voted you in to check this type of corruption – to drain the swamp. Tragically, the swamp permeates even our military justice system.
On behalf of my brother, a decorated American hero and humble patriot who has been unjustly jailed for five months awaiting trial – I ask you intervene in this broken system. Please, review Eddie’s case, reunite him with his family, and place him back on the front lines where he belongs.