By Ellie Kaufman, CNN
A Marine who posted videos criticizing the US military’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan plans to plead guilty to six charges later this week during a special court martial at Camp Lejeune, according to the Marine’s attorney Tim Parlatore.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was charged with six counts, including “contempt towards officials,” “disrespect toward superior commissioned officers,” and “dereliction in the performance of duties,” after videos of him criticizing military leaders about their handling of the withdrawal went viral.
Scheller, who has been in the US Marine Corps since 2005, stands to lose pay and other military benefits if he receives a discharge that is not honorable from the military.
His attorneys are working on a plea deal in which Scheller would receive either an honorable discharge or a general discharge with honorable conditions, which would allow him to keep certain military rights and benefits even after he is separated from the service, Parlatore told CNN in a phone interview.
But if he receives anything aside from an honorable discharge, he stands to lose military privileges including qualifying for the GI bill and qualifying for VA and medical benefits. With less than 20 years of service in the military, if he is separated under any discharge, even honorable, he will not receive any of the military retirement benefits.
Scheller is also facing jail time. Because Scheller is being tried in a special court martial, his maximum confinement is limited to one year, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“This case from the inception was all about him asking for accountability amongst senior Pentagon leadership and for him to do anything other than accept accountability for his decisions would be hypocritical,” Parlatore said. “The facts of this case are not in dispute. He made the statements online. He’s going to plead guilty.”
Scheller posted the first video on his Facebook page August 26 stating: “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 in the video he was “willing to throw it all away” to publicly “demand accountability” from military leadership.
Scheller’s video was posted the same day that 13 US service members and more than 170 others were killed in an attack outside Kabul’s airport, according to the Pentagon and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.
He appeared in uniform in the first video on August 26 and in subsequent videos he posted on his Facebook page during the month of September.
In a Facebook post on September 25, Scheller said he didn’t want or need help from former President Donald Trump, who was trying to weigh in on his behalf.
“President Trump, I was told by everyone to kiss the ring because of your following and power. I refuse,” Scheller wrote on Facebook. “I hate how you divided the country. I don’t need or want your help… tell your son to stop tweeting about me.”
“Your whole family knows nothing about US or our sacrificies. I could never work with you,” Scheller wrote in the same post. “I’d rather sit in jail and be released with a dishonorable than make compromises in my beliefs.”
Scheller was placed in pretrial confinement at the Regional Brig for Marine Corps Installations East at Camp Lejeune after being charged. He was released from the Brig on Oct. 5, according to a US Marine Corps press release.
Scheller has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times, Parlatore said. He has spent the past almost 17 years “in constant combat or training for combat,” Parlatore said.
His most recent posting was at the infantry school, training military members to fight in combat, Parlatore said.
“When 18-year-old kids go off to infantry school and then they go to bootcamp, they were under him,” Parlatore said. “So, he sees these kids really turn into warriors and oversees that process and then what happened in Kabul is in some ways like a parent watching their kid in a car accident that they know is avoidable.”
After the first video was posted, Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jim Stenger said in a statement that Scheller had been relieved of command “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.”
“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,” Stenger said.
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