Marine who slammed Afghanistan withdrawal on Facebook expected to plead guilty in special court martial

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Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, the Marine who was relieved of duty after publicly criticizing senior leaders on Facebook over Afghanistan, will plead guilty to some charges in his special court martial, which begins Thursday morning at Camp Lejeune, according to his attorney Timothy Parlatore.

"People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, 'We messed this up,'" Scheller said in an Aug. 26 Facebook video that garnered widespread attention. "Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, 'Hey, it's a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, the strategic air base, before we evacuate everyone'? Did anyone do that?"

After 17 years of service, Scheller closed the video out by saying he is willing to throw it all away to demand accountability.

“Lt. Col. Scheller has asked legitimate questions about the conduct of our senior military leaders in the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the avoidable deaths of 13 service members,” Parlatore said in a statement. “Though military law prohibits him from being the messenger, and he is willing to accept responsibility for that, it does not change the validity of the message.”

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Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was relieved of his duties on Aug. 27 after posting a Facebook video demanding accountability from senior military leaders, questioning the handling of Afghanistan evacuations.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was relieved of his duties on Aug. 27 after posting a Facebook video demanding accountability from senior military leaders, questioning the handling of Afghanistan evacuations.

On Aug. 27 he was relieved of his command at the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Geiger, a Camp Lejeune facility.

"There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media," said Marine Corps spokesperson Maj Jim Stenger after the incident.

A series of posts from Scheller followed, including an Aug. 29 video in which he resigned his commission and said “follow me and we will bring down the whole … system.”

Scheller continued speaking out, and on Sept. 27 he was placed in pretrial confinement at Camp Lejeune. His parents told Fox News that he was jailed for violating a gag order.

On Oct. 5, Scheller was released from confinement and was charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

  • Contempt toward officials (Article 88)

  • Disrespect toward superior commissioned officers (Article 89)

  • Willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer (Article 90)

  • Dereliction in the performance of duties (Article 92)

  • Failure to obey order or regulation (Article 92)

  • Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman (Article 133)

Scheller’s potential punishment is limited by the fact that it’s a special court martial, according to Richard McNeil, a local military attorney who said Scheller can’t get a bad conduct discharge at a special court martial because he is an officer.

“My belief is that if he is convicted they could use that conviction as a basis if they wanted to administratively get him out of the Marine Corps,” McNeil said.

Scheller is also represented by Tony Buzbee, who wants the Marine Corps to let his client walk free.

“All that Lt. Col. Scheller has wanted from the beginning was to be able to resign,” Buzbee said. “He has already lost his command, he lost his job, he lost his health care, he lost his retirement … Hopefully there is some compassion on the part of the Marine Corps in understanding that this does not make anybody look good.”

Reporter Calvin Shomaker can be reached at cshomaker@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Daily News: Stuart Scheller critized Afghanistan leaders, now faces court martial

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