Privacy Law

Military prosecutor accused of tracking defense lawyers' emails is tossed from case

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A military prosecutor accused of attaching tracking software to emails sent to 13 defense lawyers and paralegals is no longer prosecuting the case of a Navy SEAL.

A military judge in San Diego, Capt. Aaron Rugh, removed Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak from the case Monday, report the New York Times, the Associated Press and the San Jose Mercury News.

“The judge ruled that the threat of investigation into alleged prosecutorial misconduct against Cmdr. Chris Czaplak could be seen as a conflict of interest,” according to a statement by Navy officials.

Czaplak was kicked off the war crimes case of Navy SEAL platoon leader Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, accused in the stabbing death of an Islamic State group militant. Gallagher is also accused of shooting and wounding two civilian noncombatants from his sniper’s post.

The tracking software came to light in the case of Lt. Jacob Portier, who is accused of holding a reenlistment ceremony for Gallagher next to the body of the slain prisoner.

The tracking software was in an unusual logo showing an American flag and a bald eagle perched on the scales of justice, according to defense lawyers. The device tracks emails, including forwarded emails. The lawyers said the software was installed on emails sent to lawyers and paralegals, as well as a Navy Times reporter, to find the source of news leaks.

The Navy has said the “audit capability” could detect the flow of emails without revealing content.

Rugh said he was misled about the software. He said he was told that the software would be embedded in a court document to find the source of leaks, but he didn’t know defense lawyers would be targeted.

One of Gallagher’s defense lawyers, Tim Parlatore, told the San Jose Mercury News that the decision to toss Czaplak from the case is “a step forward but not the ultimate goal. I will not stop until Eddie Gallagher is completely free,” Parlatore said.

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