Lt. Colonel Stuart Scheller has been charged with six violations and will face a special court martial for publicly criticizing the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal
Marine officer Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller arrived grim-faced for his special court martial this morning following his blistering social media attacks on military top brass over the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco.
Scheller, 40, has pleaded guilty to six charges, including contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and was flanked by his defense team, including lawyer Timothy Parlatore as he walked to the courtroom at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Parlatore has told DailyMail.com exclusively: ‘It is interesting to note that senior leaders have not dismissed his message. But they want to crush the messenger.’
Scheller has waived his right to a trial by jury and has elected trial by military judge alone.
Parlatore said outside the courtroom: ‘This is a sentencing case. Stu has accepted responsibility. He is going to plead guilty so this is not a matter of going in and saying, hey he did the right thing but it is a matter of saying what is an appropriate punishment given the circumstances under which he committed these videos.
‘We expect he will get a letter of reprimand. We are not expecting any confinement. He has submitted his resignation and the Secretary of the Navy will later decide on that.’
Colonel Stuart Scheller Jr. (seen in uniform) was flanked by his defense team including lawyer Timothy Parlatore as he walked to the courtroom at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Thursday
Scheller arrived grim-faced for his special court martial this morning following his blistering social media attacks on military top brass over the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco
Asked how Scheller was feeling this morning, Parlatore said: ‘Any criminal defendant walking into a court house is not going to feel that great. So obviously there are always nerves. But at the same time he is looking forward to the opportunity to put this thing to rest and to come out, accept responsibility.
THE MILITARY’S CHARGES AGAINST LIEUTENANT COLONEL STUART SCHELLER
‘This case all began with demand for accountability. Today he is going to show the Pentagon what it looks like to stand up and take accountability for your actions.’
Scheller has been hauled before the court after publicly demanding the Pentagon leadership accept greater accountability for their roles in the fiasco – which saw the Taliban’s lightning advance on capital Kabul and the resulting carnage.
The decorated 17-year veteran – just three years from retirement – launched his first social media attack on generals on August 26, the day 13 US service personnel and 170 Afghan civilians were killed by an ISIS suicide bomber at Hamid Khazai airport.
The following day he was stripped of his job commanding the school of infantry at the massive Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. This was due to ‘a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,’ according to Marines spokesman Major Jim Stenger said at the time.
Despite the firing, Scheller continued to post another video and written statements on social media in the face of orders to stop. These also went viral, gaining hundreds of thousands of views.
In one he promised to file charges against the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, saying: ‘Senior leaders need to be held accountable the same as us.’
Eventually he was sent to the brig – the Marines’ jail – on September 27, sparking a massive groundswell of support to get him out from the grim confinement. He was freed a week later on October 5 after his lawyers came to an agreement with the Marine Corps.
Scheller will admit six misdemeanor charges, his legal team has told DailyMail.com. These are contempt toward officials, disrespect toward the superior commissioned officers, willfully disobeying superior commissioned officers, dereliction in the performance of duties, failure to obey order or regulation, and conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.
In one nearly five-minute video posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, he said: ‘The reason people are upset on social media right now is not because the marine on the battlefield let someone down. That service member always rose to the occasion and did extraordinary things.
‘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’.
‘I’m not saying we have got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying, did any of you throw your rank on the table and say ‘Hey it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic air base, before we evacuate everyone’. Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say, ‘We completely messed this up?’
Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was thrown in brig for breaking gag order after the soldier had blasted the US hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan
A source close to the case says Scheller stayed in an area of the brig normally for murderers
Scheller publicly shared his resignation letter, addressing it to Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Torro and citing ‘a lack of trust and confidence in your ability to lead’
The officer – who completed tours of Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star – continued: ‘I have got battalion commander friends right now who are posting things, wondering if all the lives lost were in vain.. over the last 20 years…
‘From my position, potentially all those people did die in vain if we don’t have senior leaders that own up and raise their hand and say, ‘We did not do this well in the end’.
‘Without that we just repeating the same mistakes, this amalgamation of the economic, slash, corporate, slash, political, slash, higher military ranks are not holding up their end of the bargain.
‘I want to say this very strongly. I have been fighting for 17 years. I am to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders, I demand accountability.’
In another video he said: ‘Today, after 17 years, I’m currently not pending legal action, and I could stay in the Marine Corp another three years, but I don’t think that’s that path I’m on. I’m resigning my commission as a United States Marine, effective now… I am forfeiting my retirement entitlements. I don’t want a single dollar. I don’t want any money from the VA…
‘All I asked for was accountability of my senior leaders when there are clear, obvious mistakes that were made. I am not saying we can take back what has been done. All I asked for was accountability. For people to comment on what I said, and say ‘Yes, mistakes were made’.’
At least 36 congressmembers signed a letter calling for his release while he was in the brig. The move was led by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) who said the officer’s imprisonment ‘appears to be for messaging, retribution and convenience’.
Gohmert wrote to Marine Corps Commander General David Berger saying: ‘Given his excellent record and more than 15 years of dedicated service, we do not believe and have seen no evidence that LTC Scheller poses a grave risk of criminal misconduct.’
A special court marital limits the maximum punishment for service members if found guilty. It cannot sentence an officer to jail or a punitive discharge. His legal team has told Dailymail.com they are hoping for an honorable discharge or a discharge under honorable conditions with a letter of reprimand.
The officer’s offer in one video to quit the Marines and forgo his $2million pension was rejected by the military.
The Pipe Hitter Foundation – a legal support group for service personnel and first responders – says it has raised $2million for Scheller’s defense.
It is run by former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who made headlines himself when court martialed in 2019 on war crimes allegations over the death of an ISIS fighter.
Despite being acquitted of most charges, the Navy sought to remove Gallagher from the elite unit and demote him. But he was allowed to retire as a SEAL chief petty officer after then president Donald Trump intervened.
Supporters raised over $2 million for the marine who was jailed for defying orders to stop publicly criticizing the nation’s Afghanistan withdrawal
US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller, pictured with mother Catherine and father Stuart Sr.
The Taliban’s lightning advance on Kabul to secure control of Afghanistan came after President Joe Biden announced in July that the US withdrawal from the country was set for August 31.
Their fighters dramatically seized the capital on August 15 and immediately imposed their extreme fundamentalist rule on the city following 20 years of freedom for its citizens.
This led to scenes of desperation and violence at Kabul airport as thousands of people – including US citizens – clamored for relief flights out of the country. Biden later acknowledged ‘100 to 200’ Americans who wanted to leave were left behind when the final troops withdrew.
As part of the defense, it is believed Scheller’s team plans to invoke recent testimony of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, who acknowledged that he spoke with authors of books in which he is quoted disparaging the commander in chief, former President Trump.
The defense plans to argue that while Milley is not being held accountable for criticizing his commander, Scheller is being prosecuted for the same offense.