NORFOLK, Va. — The court-martial of a Navy SEAL accused of punching a suspected terrorist in Iraq opened Monday with the judge rejecting a defense motion to dismiss the case based on something Geraldo Rivera said on television.
Attorneys for Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew McCabe of Perrysburg, Ohio, introduced a transcript of an April 22 broadcast in which Rivera told the Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly that someone close to the military official who ordered the court-martial told him the official was pressured by a higher authority not to drop the case.
Army Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the military’s joint operations commander, ordered the prosecution after McCabe and two co-defendants refused to accept an administrative punishment. The other two SEALs, who were accused of covering up the alleged abuse, were acquitted in trials last month in Baghdad.
McCabe attorney Haytham Faraj said Monday that the Rivera report suggested “unlawful command influence,” and he asked that the charges be dismissed.
“We have no evidence that Geraldo Rivera is lying,” Faraj said.
The military judge, Capt. Moria Modzelewski, dismissed the TV commentary as speculation and declined the defense request.
McCabe is accused of punching Ahmed Hashim Abed, who is suspected of masterminding the grisly 2004 killings of four American contractors in Fallujah, after Abed was captured and brought to a U.S. military base last September. He is charged with assault, dereliction of duty and making false statements to investigators.
The SEALs have received an outpouring of support from people on the Internet, as well as more than 20 members of Congress who signed a letter urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to put a stop to the prosecution. A couple of dozen protesters gathered Monday outside Naval Station Norfolk, where McCabe is being tried, holding American flags and signs supporting the SEALs.
Jury selection is scheduled in McCabe’s trial Tuesday, with opening statements to follow. The jury will consist of six sailors. If convicted, McCabe could get up to a year in jail.
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