SAN DIEGO -- A key witness in the Navy SEAL court-martial trial said he, not Chief Edward Gallagher, killed a wounded Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017, testimony that appears to up-end the prosecution's main claim in a nationally watched murder and attempted murder case.
Corey Scott, a first class petty officer, testified that he was there and saw Gallagher stab the wounded ISIS fighter in the neck but, he said, he killed the fighter afterward.
Scott said he used his thumb to cover the breathing tube that had been inserted to help the fighter breathe and he watched the man die. He said he did it to spare the fighter from being tortured later by members of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division, who also were fighting ISIS.
Prosecutors said Scott was lying to protect Gallagher, who is charged with premeditated murder for allegedly killing the wounded ISIS fighter while providing medical treatment. He's also charged with shooting two civilians and, at other times during that deployment, shooting indiscriminately at civilians.
Gallagher denies all the charges and has pleaded not guilty. His lead defense attorney, Timothy Parlatore, has said that some witnesses have conspired to lie about Gallagher.
Prosecutors said that while talking to investigators, Scott never mentioned that he killed the fighter.
Scott denied lying and said he didn't tell prosecutors or investigators about his actions because he wasn't directly asked, not until several weeks ago when defense attorney Marc Mukasey asked him what he did after the stabbing.
Scott also acknowledged that he didn't want Gallagher to be imprisoned.
"I don't want him to go to jail," Scott said of Gallagher.
In prior court discussions, it was revealed that Scott is one of the witnesses who had obtained immunity from prosecution.
Testimony was expected to continue Thursday afternoon in the fourth day of trial for Gallagher.
Earlier this week, two other platoon mates delivered testimony favorable to the prosecution. One said he saw Gallagher stab the fighter in the neck and saw Scott deliver aid by putting a bandage on the fighter's neck. Another platoon member said he saw Gallagher shoot an old man, an Iraqi civilian, from a sniper position and that he has seen Gallagher shoot into a crowd of civilians.
Scott's testimony delivers the latest serious blow to the prosecution's case in a trial that has commanded national attention.
In recent weeks it was discovered that a prosecutor and Navy investigators had embedded tracking software into emails sent to defense attorneys and to a Navy Times reporter in a failed attempt to discover a source of leaks to the news media. The judge in the case said the action violated Gallagher's rights, so he removed the prosecutor and reduced the maximum penalty Gallagher would face if he were found guilty.
Conservative news pundits, some politicians, as well as Gallagher's family members and supporters have long said Gallagher should not have been charged.
President Donald Trump got involved by having Gallagher transferred out of the brig weeks before trial. Mukasey, who is representing Gallagher, is one of Trump's personal attorneys.
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