San Diego

SEAL Chief Acquitted of War Crimes Sues Lawyers, Legal Defense Nonprofit

A Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder by a military jury in July has filed a lawsuit against two defense lawyers and a nonprofit legal defense group — who he had parted ways with on the high-profile case before the trial.

Edward Gallagher said in a complaint filed in federal court in Texas on Friday that Colby Vokey and Phillip Stackhouse, both retired Marines and prominent military attorneys, ran up legal bills while not doing their jobs.

The United American Patriots, Inc., also took advantage of him by working in cahoots with the two lawyers to draw out the case to be able to be able to raise more funds, according to the lawsuit.

Vokey, who is based in Dallas, said he stands by his work on the case, saying his defense team was "committed and successful in defending Chief Gallagher" and that he spent more than $100,000 of his own money defending him.

Vokey added that the United American Patriots was providing financial support for the case until the Gallagher family told them to stop.

United American Patriots, Inc., in Alexandria, Virginia, did not respond to phone calls and emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Stackhouse, based in San Diego, said in an email to AP that "it's disappointing it's come to this, but I'm confident the court will sort it out in the most appropriate manner."

The San Diego Union-Tribune was the first to report the lawsuit.

Gallagher was accused of murder in the death of a wounded Islamic State captive in Iraq in 2017, along with the shootings of civilians and posing with the dead militant in photos. A jury of combat veterans acquitted him of all charges except one count for posing with a human casualty. They sentenced Gallagher to a reduction in rank from chief petty to petty officer 1st class, which could affect his pay and retirement.

The sentence must still be approved by a higher authority in the military justice system.

Gallagher's trial came after a judge removed the lead prosecutor over a bungled effort that used software to track emails sent to defense lawyers to find the source of leaks to the media.

After Gallagher was arrested in September 2018, he was represented by Vokey and Stackhouse until spring of 2019.

Gallagher said in the complaint that he fired Vokey in March. Stackhouse withdrew his representation in April, only weeks after President Donald Trump intervened in the case and ordered Gallagher released from the brig.

The Navy responding to the president's orders moved Gallagher to less restrictive custody at a Navy hospital, where his lawyers could more easily meet with him, and Gallagher hired Timothy Parlatore.

Around the same time, Gallagher also ended his relationship with United American Patriots and told them to not use his case for promotion efforts.

Gallagher alleges in the complaint that the group "targets service members in need to use for their advertising campaigns, raising millions of dollars to line their pockets while providing very little to the actual legal representation."

Vokey filed a lawsuit in August saying Gallagher owes him $1 million in legal fees for his work on the case. He also sent a notice to the Navy SEALs Fund, saying he would get a lien on the nonprofit fund that helped Gallagher if he did not pay.

Vokey said Navy SEALs Fund raised over $800,000 for Gallagher's defense but never gave any money to Vokey's defense team.

Gallagher is asking the court to declare he does not owe anything to the attorneys, and if he does then United American Patriots should pay, according to the lawsuit.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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