Fired Marine commander Scheller charged with six crimes, faces court-martial
Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr. will face a misdemeanor-level special court-martial on six charges filed by the Corps this week related to his public admonishing of American officials handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, service officials announced Wednesday.
Scheller, whose social media posts blasting top civilian and military officials garnered hundreds of thousands of views in the days after 13 U.S. troops were killed in a bombing at the Kabul airport, was formally charged Monday, one day before he was released from the brig at Camp Lejeune, N.C., a Marine spokesman said. He is accused of violating Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 88 by displaying contempt toward officials, Article 89 by disrespecting superior commissioned officers, Article 90 by willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, Article 92 by dereliction in the performance of his duties and failure to obey an order or regulation, and Article 133 by displaying conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
Those charges were referred on Wednesday morning to a special court-martial by Maj. Gen. Julian D. Alford, who leads Marine Training Command, according to Capt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for the command. A special court-martial limits the maximum punishment for service members found guilty, and cannot sentence an officer found guilty to confinement or a punitive discharge. Sheller could face a loss of two-thirds pay per month, if convicted, according to the UCMJ.
Stephenson said Wednesday that no hearings had been scheduled in Scheller’s case.
The lieutenant colonel was released from the brig on Tuesday after spending about one week in pre-trial confinement on suspicions of violating the UCMJ as the result of an agreement between Scheller’s defense attorneys and Alford, Stephenson said. He declined to provide any additional details about that agreement, including what further impact it could have on Scheller’s case.
Scheller was held in an individual cell in the Camp Lejeune brig, but he was not held in solitary confinement at any time, Stephenson said. He was in regular contact with other prisoners and staff during his confinement and allowed at least two hours of recreation time per day.
Scheller is a 17-year infantry officer who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was fired from his job commanding one of Camp Lejeune’s infantry training battalions on Aug. 27, after he posted a video on Facebook and LinkedIn demanding accountability for top military and civilian officials in the hours after the deadly bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where U.S. troops worked to evacuate more than 100,000 people from Kabul after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Scheller expressed his “growing discontent and contempt for … perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level” in the viral video in which he appeared in his combat uniform. In follow-up videos, he accused Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, of dereliction of duty and he promised to resign his commission and help “bring the whole (expletive) system down.”
Corps officials have said Marines have proper channels via their chains of command to raise concerns about issues, but criticizing leadership via social media is not acceptable.
Scheller plans to face the charges in a court-martial, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Pipe Hitter Foundation, which has raised money for Scheller’s defense. The foundation is run by former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher and his wife. Gallagher was court-martialed in 2019 on allegations of war crimes, but he was acquitted of most of the charges. He was allowed to retire as a SEAL chief petty officer, after former President Donald Trump intervened in his case because the Navy sought to remove him from the elite ranks of the SEALs and demote him.
The Pipe Hitter Foundation said Scheller remains subjected to a gag order, which it labeled “unlawful.” It also said he had formally requested to resign his commission instead of facing a court-martial.