A Navy SEAL acquitted of murdering an ISIS captive but convicted of posing for photos with the man's corpse has had his sentence upheld—but with a much smaller punishment. Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher has been bumped down a rank, to petty officer first class, though since his sentence included confinement, he would ordinarily have been demoted to seaman recruit, the lowest rank in the Navy, the New York Times reports. A Navy spokesman says that after reviewing a request for clemency, Chief of Naval Operation Adm. Mike Gilday decided to uphold the court-martial sentence, "but disapproved the automatic reduction in rate," reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Gallagher, a former platoon leader, was reported by his own men. President Trump intervened to free him from the brig.
Gallagher's lawyers say the reduction from an E-7 pay grade to an E-1 would have cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement pay. They say even the reduction from E-7 to E-6 would cost him $200,000, though a presidential pardon is a possibility. Trump took a strong interest in the case and congratulated Gallagher on his acquittal. A former Navy prosecutor says it was highly unusual for Gilday to have personally dealt with the clemency quest. "In my 15 years of military law, I’ve never seen it," he says. "But there is a feeling among military lawyers that the defense has just steamrolled everyone below, so giving it to the CNO is the right decision. He has authority to do the proper thing." He adds, however, that there was a strong case for clemency in Gallagher's case. (A prosecutor was pulled from the case after some "entirely inappropriate" conduct.)