Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller pleaded guilty on Oct. 14, 2021, at a special court-martial after being charged with multiple violations of military law. Photo courtesy of The Pipe Hitter Foundation.
Less than a day after the Marines freed Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller from the Camp Lejeune brig, the brass in North Carolina ordered him to stand trial by special court-martial for his social media posts demanding senior leaders be held accountable for failed operations in Afghanistan.
Released Wednesday, Oct. 6, from pretrial confinement, Scheller faces six charges for allegedly violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including Article 88 (contempt toward officials); Article 89 (disrespect toward superior commissioned officers); Article 90 (willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer); Article 92 (dereliction in the performance of duties); Article 92 (failure to obey order or regulation); and Article 133 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman).
Training and Education Command spokesperson Capt. Samuel Stephenson said Scheller’s commanding general had referred the charges to special court-martial.
Scheller’s initial hearing has been docketed for Oct. 14 at 9 a.m. aboard Camp Lejeune. It’s open to the public.
Col. Glen R. Hines, a Marine Corps Reserve judge, will preside.
In terms of severity, a special court-martial falls below a general court-martial. It’s roughly akin to going to a civilian court that handles misdemeanors instead of felonies.
Scheller rocketed to fame in the aftermath of an Aug. 26 viral video in which he voiced his “growing discontent and contempt” for the “ineptitude” of military and civilian leaders during the bungled evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans from Taliban-controlled Kabul.
The 17-year combat veteran continued to make videos and social media posts after Marine leaders removed him from command of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at the School of Infantry-East inside Camp Lejeune.
The posts seemed to reach a crescendo Sept. 25, when Scheller took to Facebook to call out a long list of civilian and military leaders who he believed failed to create an effective foreign policy while uniting the American people, including former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama and retired generals Jim Mattis and David Petraeus.
Coffee or Die urged the Marine Corps to halt a secret hearing to decide the fate of Stuart Scheller, who urged accountability for failures in Afghanistan.https://t.co/MZjHexvsSp
— Coffee or Die Magazine (@CoffeeOrDieMag) October 5, 2021
Scheller capped his rant with a message for his commanding officer to “please have the MPs waiting for me at 0800 on Monday. I’m ready for jail.”
Leaked documents reveal that, once he was behind bars, Scheller and a legal team led by Texas attorney Brian Ferguson began brokering a plea agreement with Lt. Col. Alan Schuller, a highly respected Marine attorney who serves as Training Command’s staff judge advocate.
On Monday, Scheller submitted a written proposal to the secretary of the Navy in which he offered to resign his commission and exit the Marine Corps.
Agreements like those nearly always require a member of the military to plead guilty to a crime. And Scheller acknowledged that, under the agreement, he might receive a punitive general discharge under other-than-honorable conditions.
But he also held out hope he would receive a recommendation for release under honorable conditions.
The proposal also indicated Scheller could back out of it before any plea was entered.
Ferguson declined to comment when contacted Wednesday, except to say an internal Marine Corps probe into Scheller was apparently leaked to at least one news outlet, and it didn’t come from the defense team.
Ferguson expressed concern because he feared the leak was designed merely to malign Scheller. He also believed the report contained medical and other sensitive personal information tied to 15 junior enlisted Marines at Camp Lejeune.
Marine officials didn’t respond to messages from Coffee or Die about who leaked those records.
This story was updated at 8:25 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2021, to clarify that Training Command, not Training and Education Command, convened the special court-martial trial.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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