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US Navy SEAL spared jail but demoted after war crimes trial

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05th-Jul-2019       
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Reuters, San Diego  :
A US Navy SEAL platoon commander acquitted of murdering a captured Islamic State fighter but convicted of unlawfully posing for photos with his dead body was sentenced on Wednesday to a demotion in rank and pay.
The penalty imposed by a seven-member jury of US Marines and Navy personnel spared the defendant, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, from any prison time beyond the nearly seven months he had already served in pretrial custody.
President Donald Trump, who intervened months ago to order Gallagher freed from pretrial detention in the court-martial, hailed the platoon leader's acquittal in a Twitter post hours before sentencing.
"Congratulations to Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, his wonderful wife Andrea, and his entire family. You have been through much together. Glad I could help!" Trump wrote.
The jury found Gallagher not guilty on Tuesday of murder, attempted murder and other charges, including deliberately shooting at unarmed civilians and obstruction of justice. But he was found guilty of posing for pictures with a human casualty - a practice some military personnel refer to as taking "trophy photos."
That offense, stemming from photos he and fellow SEAL members took with the corpse of the Iraqi prisoner whom Gallagher was acquitted of slaying, carries a maximum sentence of four months' imprisonment.
"BLACK EYE"
Instead, he will receive a one-step demotion in his rank from chief petty officer to petty officer first class, presumably accompanied by a corresponding reduction in his pay. The sentence also carries a two-month forfeiture of his salary, a sum of nearly $5,400.
Addressing the jury on Wednesday morning before sentence was pronounced, Gallagher accepted "full responsibility" for appearing in the photos in question.
"I put a black eye on the two communities I love the most, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Navy, specifically the SEAL community," he said.

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