UPDATES WILL BE ADDED TO THE TOP OF THIS ARTICLE THROUGH THE DAY
12:26 p.m.: A military judge accepted on Thursday Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller’s plea and found Scheller guilty of all charges at his court-martial today at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
When court resumes at 1:30 p.m. following its lunch break, Scheller’s potential punishment will be discussed.
Scheller’s lawyer earlier Thursday said he expects Scheller to receive a letter of reprimand. In court it was said Scheller could also forfeit two-thirds of his monthly pay, for up to 12 months.
There are limitations on his potential punishment. Scheller may not be demoted, fined or punitively discharged.
Scheller was charged with contempt, disrespect, disobedience, dereliction in the performance of his duties, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman after he published videos on Facebook in August and September that criticized the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Even though Scheller cannot be forced out of the service by this court-martial, he has already submitted his resignation from his commission. The secretary of the Navy is to decide whether his separation from the service will be characterized as an honorable discharge or as a general discharge under honorable conditions, which is a lesser discharge than an honorable discharge.
11:30 a.m.: At his court-martial, Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller this morning has been acknowledging to the judge his guilt to the charges that were levied against him following his comments in August and September that criticized the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
He is explaining in his own words why he believes he is guilty of the alleged violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
For example, Scheller accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty to dereliction in the performance of duties. He said he violated an order — colloquially known as a “gag order” — that his commander had him sign that told him to stop posting comments on social media.
Despite the gag order, Scheller appeared on social media in a video to announce effort by by the Pipe Hitter Foundation to raise money for his and his family’s legal expenses and other expenses surrounding his case. The Pipe Hitter Foundation is a nonprofit that raises money for the legal defense of military personnel and first responders.
10:08 a.m.: Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller pleaded guilty this morning to all six charges and specifications levied against him by the military following his public comments that bashed the final American withdrawal in August of combat forces from Afghanistan.
As part of his plea agreement, Scheller waived his right to a jury trial.
Prior to the court-martial, Scheller attorney Tim Parlatore told the news media Scheller accepted responsibility for his actions and the main issue remaining was a decision on what would be an appropriate punishment.
8:47 a.m.: One of Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller’s defense lawyers, Tim Parlatore, told reporters that he expects that Stuart’s punishment include a letter of reprimand and will not include confinement. He expects the proceedings to conclude today.
Parlatore is a civilian lawyer whose firm is based in New York.
The court-martial hearing was scheduled to commence at 9 a.m.
Court-martial of Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a former Marine Corps battalion commander who was relieved of command after publicly criticizing the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, stands trial at Camp Lejeune today.
According to an Oct. 13 report from CNN, Scheller plans to plead guilty and seek a plea deal for an honorable discharge or a general discharge with honorable conditions. The Pipe Hitter Foundation has raised more than $2 million to support the Scheller family.
The court-martial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
Scheller is in court because he posted a video while in uniform on Aug. 26 demanding accountability from military leaders over the withdrawal from Afghanistan after 11 Marines, a Navy corpsman and a Fort Bragg Army soldier were killed in Kabul. The following day, Scheller was relieved of his command of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Lejeune’s Camp Geiger.
In the video, which has more than one million views on Facebook, Scheller made it evident he was willing to risk his position as battalion commander, retirement and family stability to speak his mind.
“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 the video.
Scheller, who has served 17 years, continued to speak out on social media.
“All I asked for was accountability of my senior leaders when there are clear, obvious mistakes that were made,” Scheller said in an Aug. 29 video in which he announced his decision to resign his commission.He further said, “follow me and we will bring the whole [explicit] system down.”
On Sept. 27, Scheller was placed in pretrial confinement at Camp Lejeune for violating a gag order, according to multiple reports.
On Oct. 5, Scheller was released from confinement and was charged with six violations of military law:
- Contempt toward officials.
- Disrespect toward superior commissioned officers.
- Willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer.
- Dereliction in the performance of duties.
- Failure to obey order or regulation.
- Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
On the U.S. House floor last month, Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn called Scheller “an American patriot who dared to speak the truth.”
Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a Marine reservist and former platoon commander, voiced a different point of view.
“Scheller did not ‘stand up to incompetence’ — he broke his oath,” Auchincloss told the House. “Stuart Scheller is a liability to our national security.”
Background: Marine publicly critical of Afghanistan withdrawal expected to accept responsibility
In an interview with The Daily News on Oct. 12, Auchincloss added to his position.
“Scheller was not speaking truth to power,” Auchincloss said. “It was undermining civilian control over the military, and that is not brave. That is a liability to our constitutional order.”
Reporter Calvin Shomaker can be reached at email@example.com.