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Marine officer who posted videos criticizing Gen. Milley, other military leaders faces court martial

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A Marine lieutenant colonel who was thrown in the brig for posting videos in which he criticizes Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley and other senior military leaders for their role in the Afghanistan withdrawal will plead guilty to multiple charges at his court martial Thursday, says his attorney.

Lt. Col. Stu Scheller is charged with disrespecting superior commissioned officers, willfully disobeying an officer, conduct unbecoming an officer, contempt for his senior leaders and violations of good order and discipline.

On Aug. 26, Scheller posted a video on social media where he criticized U.S. military leaders for the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and demanded accountability for the 13 service members who were killed in an ISIS bombing. He made the video hours after the attack at Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport. Scheller served in Afghanistan and claimed to know someone who was killed in the attack.

Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man on a stretcher for treatment after two blasts outside the airport in Kabul on Aug. 26, 2021.Wakil Koshar / AFP – Getty Images file

In the video, Scheller said, “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 have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders I demand accountability.”

Soon after the video posted, Scheller was relieved of command at the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, N.C., “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,” said Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jim Stenger. “This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine. There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.”

But Scheller’s video went viral, and despite orders not to continue, Scheller posted several more. In one he promised to file charges against the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, saying, “Senior leaders need to be held accountable the same as us.”

Scheller’s notoriety grew after he dared his commanding officer to arrest him. “I’m ready for jail,” he said on Facebook on Sept. 25, and even told the officer to meet him at 0800 on Monday morning. Military police did arrest him — and he spent more than a week in military jail.

After his arrest, Scheller said he had teamed up with the Pipe Hitter Foundation, the non-profit started by former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was pardoned by former President Trump for his role in the murder of an ISIS prisoner. Together, Scheller and the foundation have raised more than $2 million for Scheller and his family.

“He hit a nerve with a lot of people. You screw up, you should admit it,” a source familiar with Scheller’s defense said. Marine officers are taught moral and physical courage, the source said, and that includes “being willing to call it like you see it and that’s what he did.”

Scheller will plead guilty as a sign of accountability, said his attorney Tim Parlatore, who also represented Gallagher. “He will show the generals what accountability looks like.”

Scheller will forfeit more than $2 million in retirement pay for this decision, according to his attorney. He’s asking for an honorable discharge. His special court martial begins Thursday at Camp Lejeune.

As part of the defense, Scheller’s defense team plans to invoke recent testimony of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. 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.

A source familiar with Scheller’s defense said, “[Scheller] is accused of doing what [Milley] and others admitted they have done.”

Parlatore said, “There’s no question there is a double standard here.”

According to the charge sheets, obtained by the military blog Task and Purpose, the Marine Corps alleges Scheller made statements that seem to incite protest, such as “every generation needs a revolution.” Pentagon regulations limit service members from protesting and advocating for revolution. The charges, however, relate to his videos, and his alleged statement about revolution does not appear in the videos.

Parlatore called allegations that his client was inciting revolution “a complete distraction.”

“This case is about accountability and the failure of Pentagon leadership in the conduct and withdrawal from Afghanistan. The only way to avoid that is change the subject so they want to talk about January 6,” Parlatore said.

He did not dispute Task and Purpose’s characterization of the contents of the charge sheets.

Parlatore acknowledged that Scheller had conversations about the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but described one case as “an off-hand discussion” with a colleague about the security posture and his belief that the crowd was not intent on violence. He described the conversation as expected for a security and military professional.

In a Sept. 16, 2021, video Scheller called for change in the military. Speaking directly to the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, Scheller said an awakening needs to take place at the general officer level.

In the same video Scheller said the Marine Corps offered him “a very fair deal,” including non-judicial punishment rather than court martial and an agreement to give up his retirement pay and resign his commission. Scheller would accept a general discharge under honorable conditions. He acknowledged that making that video “might destroy that deal.”

Scheller maintains military leaders should be held accountable for their decision to close Bagram Airbase, which he believes contributed to the chaos at Kabul Airport. His attorney insists this is not a political endeavor and that Scheller does not criticize political leaders. He does praise two Republican congressmen, Rep. Brian Mast of Florida and Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, in one video, but most of the criticisms are focused on military leaders.

The Marine Corps declined to comment on the Scheller court martial or confirm that any deal was offered. Gen. Milley declined to comment.

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