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Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller is scheduled for court-martial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Thursday, and faces charges that include disrespect toward superior commissioned officers, willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, and dereliction in the performance of duties.  Scheller was relieved of his command last month after posting a video critique in the wake of the Aug. 26 bombing at Kabul’s international airport.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller is scheduled for court-martial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Thursday, and faces charges that include disrespect toward superior commissioned officers, willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, and dereliction in the performance of duties.  Scheller was relieved of his command last month after posting a video critique in the wake of the Aug. 26 bombing at Kabul’s international airport. (U.S. Marine Corps)

WASHINGTON — A Marine officer whose viral videos criticizing senior officials for how they withdrew from Afghanistan created a political uproar will plead guilty to several charges and seek a discharge that allows him to keep some military benefits, one of his lawyers said on Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller is scheduled for court-martial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Thursday, and faces charges that include disrespect toward superior commissioned officers, willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, and dereliction in the performance of duties. He burst into public view in August when, in the immediate aftermath of a suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. troops and about 170 Afghans, he posted a video while in uniform questioning why no senior leader had admitted making mistakes in how the withdrawal was carried out.

One of Scheller's attorneys, Tim Parlatore, said in a phone interview that he could not yet get into the specifics of a pretrial agreement because some of the details are "still up in the air." But he said the case began with Scheller demanding accountability from others, and it would "make him a hypocrite" if the Marine did not accept responsibility for his own actions.

The Marine hopes to avoid jail time and secure either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions.

"Our hope is for him to get a letter of reprimand, and no more," Parlatore said.

The possibility of a plea deal was first reported by Coffee or Die Magazine.

The case has been injected with partisan politics, with Scheller becoming a cause celebre among conservatives angry with the Biden administration and senior military officials.

Several dozen Republicans called for his release from pretrial confinement in a letter late last month, and the case has received significant attention in conservative media. It also has been spotlighted by retired Special Operations chief Edward Gallagher, a former client of Parlatore's who was acquitted in 2019 of an alleged murder in Iraq and now advocates for other service members facing criminal charges.

Scheller has also criticized Republicans, including former president Donald Trump. In a Facebook post on Sept. 25, he wrote that "everyone" had told Scheller to "kiss the ring" and seek Trump's help, but he said that he didn't want to and that "I hate" how Trump "divided the country."

"Tell your son to stop tweeting about me," Scheller wrote, a reference to Donald Trump Jr. "Your whole family knows nothing about US or our sacrifices. I could never work with you."

Scheller, a 17-year infantry officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, posted his first video on Aug. 26, shortly after a suicide bombing by Islamic State militants targeted U.S. troops and Afghans at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul as the United States carried out a chaotic evacuation effort. The airlift ultimately transported more than 120,000 people to safety, but some U.S. citizens and thousands of Afghans who assisted the war effort were left behind.

Scheller, wearing a camouflage uniform, identified himself by name and rank and said in a video that he knew one of the people killed in the bombing. Scheller said he knew he had "a lot to lose" by speaking out as he was close to earning a full military retirement, but thought risking his financial future gave him the moral high ground.

"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.

Scheller was quickly removed as the commander of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Lejeune. A Marine Corps spokesman, Maj. Jim Stenger, said at the time that while it was an emotional time for a lot of Marines, "there is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it's not social media."

Scheller responded with another video on Aug. 30 that appeared even more emotional. A former mentor of his, retired Col. Thomas Hobbs, had commented on his first video and said that if Scheller was honorable, he would resign his commission.

"You didn't say, 'is,' as if challenging me," Scheller responded to Hobbs in the video. "You said, 'was,' as if I wouldn't do it." Scheller then announced that he was resigning, and told viewers that if people followed him, they would bring "the system down."

Hobbs, in a brief phone interview, said on Tuesday that Scheller served under his command at one point, and was one of his best company commanders. Hobbs said that while Scheller was a top performer, he warned him long ago that his arrogance could be his downfall.

"He hasn't shown one spec of remorse or admitted he was wrong in any way," Hobbs said. "I 100 percent believe it's a ploy for him to run for office."

Parlatore said that Scheller went through an "emotional roller coaster" after posting his first video, and that it has similarities to what many other veterans go through more privately.

"There is no question that there is some severe emotional distress throughout, and he definitely went to some very dark places," Parlatore said. "This is unfortunately not uncommon for a lot of the veteran community."

Scheller, in another video last month, said he was "filled with rage" after he saw colleagues in the Marine Corps turn on him, with some assuming that he was having a mental breakdown. Those feelings eventually shifted to pain and sadness, Scheller said.

"General officers, for the last 20 years, have given bad advice consistently," he said. "And none of them have been held accountable."

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