Judge Removes Prosecutor in Navy SEAL's War Crimes Court-Martial
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SAN DIEGO — The lead prosecutor in the court-martial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL platoon leader accused of war crimes, was removed from the case on Monday in a significant setback for the prosecution just a week before the trial was set to begin.
The highly unusual ruling by a Navy judge at a hearing in San Diego came after revelations that the prosecutor, Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak, was involved in efforts to secretly track the communications of defense lawyers and a journalist covering the case.
The Navy must now bring in a new senior prosecutor for a complex high-profile case involving multiple charges of murder, attempted murder and other crimes. It is unclear if Chief Gallagher's trial will be rescheduled or will begin June 10 as planned.
The judge, Capt. Aaron Rugh, issued the ruling late Monday under a protective order that prevents lawyers in the case from sharing it, but one lawyer confirmed the order.
The ruling came after a two-day hearing last week in which Navy law enforcement staff detailed how they created a plan to monitor emails sent to Chief Gallagher's lawyers, while giving the judge in the case the false impression that the Navy had permission to do so from the Justice Department. No warrant or any other sort of permission was issued.
“We will continue to fight for Chief Gallagher until justice is done,” said Marc Mukasey, one of Chief Gallagher's lawyers, who declined to discuss the judge's ruling. Mr. Mukasey also represents President Trump.