On Tuesday, October 5, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller Jr. was released from the brig after his attorneys came to an agreement with Marine Corps officials. The 17-year infantry officer was sent to the brig on September 27 after posting videos of himself to social media that criticized top military and U.S. officials for their actions leading up to the bombing in Kabul that left 13 U.S. troops dead. Before the agreement was made, the Marine Corps stated that Scheller would be detained in custody pending the outcome of an Article 32 hearing.
The Videos That Started It All
The videos, posted to Facebook and LinkedIn in late August, showed Scheller decked in his Marine Corps uniform as he demanded officials take accountability for the failures that resulted from the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. They quickly accumulated hundreds of thousands of views. Scheller was subsequently fired from his position as commander of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. on August 27.
“People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting responsibility and saying we messed this up,” Scheller said in one video. “I have been fighting for 17 years and I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: ‘I demand accountability.’” In another, he said he aimed to “bring the whole system down.”
What Was Scheller Charged With?
Prior to his release from the brig on Tuesday, Scheller had yet to be charged with a specific violation of the UCMJ. However, the Lieutenant Colonel has since been formally charged with 6 violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and has been referred to a special court-martial. The charges he faces include contempt toward officials (Article 88), disrespect toward superior commissioned officers (Article 89), willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer (Article 90), dereliction in the performance of duties and failure to obey an order or regulation (Article 92), and conduct unbecoming of an officer (Article 133).
Support for Scheller
Scheller has garnered support from tens of thousands of individuals and organizations, including the Pipe Hitter Foundation founded by former Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher. The foundation has been vocal about its support for Scheller and has been working to raise money for him and his family for emergency relief funds, relocation, the possible loss of his military benefits and retirement, and legal expenses, among other things. The fundraiser has reached an astonishing number of over $2 million from more than 27,000 donors, many of which are military veterans.
Following his release from the brig, Scheller remains subject to a gag order. The Lt. Col. submitted a request for redress regarding the gag order, which the Pipe Hitter Foundation describes as an “unlawful” order. In addition, Scheller has submitted a request to resign his commission rather than face a court-martial. The command has yet to respond to his requests.
Politicization in the Military and Concerns Regarding your Legal Rights
Within the military, disagreement, discussion, honesty, and criticism are not only tolerated but often encouraged. However, Scheller’s recent removal from leadership over his public political discourse seemingly gives the impression that this may not be the case. This event has certainly raised a plethora of important questions relating to politicization in the military. For example, is the critique of policy and practice truly permitted within the military? How is it possible to engage in open and honest debate when military commanders who question policy are promptly dismissed and punished?
This, coupled with the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate and the accompanying language of associated orders and comments from those in charge related to the topics of vaccines, would give the impression that outside political pressures are at least present and currently seeping into at least some of the Command decision-making process.
These recent issues come on the heels of similar troubling signs of outside influences putting pressure on Command decision-making in regards to sexual assault allegations within the military. In such circumstances, there are instances of cases being pushed forward with weak or limited evidence under the auspices of “letting the process work it out.” However, with zealous advocacy from the right legal representation and the military justice process firing on all cylinders, it often does turn out well for those accused in cases where the legal issue is pushed forward over advice to the contrary. Regardless, it is still a harrowing experience for all those involved.
Remember: just because you know yourself to be innocent does not mean you will not be prosecuted by the military. The current milieu of the U.S. Military lends more to presumptions against you and actions based on weak evidence than to the more proper presumption of innocence. With increasing frequency, Commanders are not shouldering the burden of hard decision-making and dismissing cases or choosing not to prosecute. Rather, they are seemingly sending off these cases to Boards, Courts-Martial, and other legal and administrative bodies for rapid resolution.
What Does This Mean for You?
In today’s military, you must hold fast to your rights and seek legal assistance at the earliest opportunity when faced with an allegation, military investigation, or insinuation of wrongful misconduct. Above all else, it’s important that you exercise your right to remain silent until you have consulted with experienced civilian legal counsel. Be sure to steer clear of the typical traps of “just talk to us so we can clear this up,” or “if you’re innocent, what do you have to hide?” along with other similar statements.
Facing legal issues is challenging enough, but facing them alone can be next to impossible at times. Let our experienced military defense attorneys at Wilkie Law Firm stand between you and your accusers and defend your rights, good name, and all you have worked for during your time in service. For a free consultation, call the Devil Dog Defender at 910-333-9626 or complete our online intake form via our website. Day or night, our attorneys are standing by ready to discuss your case and your legal options with you.