Stuart Scheller, Marine officer jailed for Afghanistan criticisms, to plead guilty

The Marine who faces a court-martial for his criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal will plead guilty to the charges in the hopes of demonstrating the sort of accountability he had accused the top Pentagon brass of not demonstrating.

A source familiar with the case told The Washington Times on Tuesday that Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller intends to plead guilty to each of the charges that were filed against him in the special court-martial, which is set for Thursday at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He is going to give the Pentagon a personal class in accepting responsibility,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because of a gag order in the case imposed by Marine Corps officials.

The lieutenant colonel faces six charges — displaying contempt toward officials; disrespecting superior commissioned officers; willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer; dereliction of duties; failure to obey an order; and displaying conduct unbecoming an officer.

Lt. Col. Scheller‘s social media posts, including a viral video in which he wore his camouflage uniform, blasted top civilian and military leaders for not accepting responsibility in the days after 13 U.S. troops — mostly his fellow Marines — were killed in an Aug. 26 suicide attack at the Kabul airport.

The charges were referred to the special court-martial by Maj. Gen. Julian D. Alford, who leads Marine Training Command.  

He became a political cause celebre after he was jailed in the case — greater consequences than anyone who actually handled the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, numerous conservatives and Republicans pointed out.

In those videos and social media posts, he called for a round of resignations from senior leadership at the Pentagon and dereliction of duty charges against Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command who was in overall command of Afghanistan during the collapse of the U.S. trained and equipped Afghan government and military.

Lt. Col. Scheller told Marine Corps officials he wanted to resign and was ready to forgo any benefits he might have accrued from 17 years spent in the military.

They refused his request and fired him from his job as an infantry battalion commander at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

When his commanding officer ordered him to quit his social media crusade, Lt. Col. Scheller went on the web to talk about that as well. It did not endear him to the authorities.

He spent a week in the brig at Camp Lejeune even before any of the charges were filed against him. He told his followers that “the system” needed to be taken down.

“We need fresh blood and perspective. It’s time for a new generation to assume American power,” he said in a video. “Follow me, and we will bring the whole [expletive] system down — in a constitutional manner — with one loud voice.”

An attorney for Lt. Col. Scheller told The Washington Post on Tuesday that his client seeks to avoid prison time and a dishonorable discharge, which would let him keep some of the military benefits he accrued in his 17 years of service.

“Our hope is for him to get a letter of reprimand, and no more,” lawyer Tim Parlatore said.

However, the attorney said, he could not detail a specific pretrial agreement because some details are “still up in the air.”

Victor Morton contributed to this report.

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