Stuart Scheller: Marine docked $5,000 and given letter of reprimand over criticising Afghanistan withdrawal

Judge notes ‘outstanding record’ in sentence defence team says is fair

Justin Vallejo
New York
Friday 15 October 2021 18:09 BST
Stuart Scheller pled guilty to all charges after being court-martialed for criticising the Afghanistan withdrawal

Lt Col Stuart Scheller was sentenced to $5,000 in docked pay and given an official letter of reprimand over his public critique of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left 13 Americans dead.

Mr Scheller reportedly escaped an additional $5,000 fine after spending nine days in a military prison before the court-martial at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Colonel Glen Hines said he watched all of Mr Scheller’s videos and “saw a man who appeared to be in pain, frustrated and confused,” according to The Daily Mail.

While Mr Scheller left the court, along with his parents, without making further comment, his attorney Tim Palatore told reporters that the judge’s decision was fair and that they were “very pleased” with the result.

A letter of reprimand would generally be issued by the US Navy, rather than the court, and the $5,000 is docked out of one month’s pay, rather than being issued as a fine.

The sentence follows Mr Scheller’s guilty plea on Thursday to six misdemeanour charges, including conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, contempt, disrespect, disobedience and dereliction of duties.

Mr Scheller rose to national prominence after posting videos to Facebook and LinkedIn as the deadly retreat from Afghanistan left the Taliban in control of the country with billions of dollars worth of American military equipment.

He was fired on 27 August after calling on his supporters to help him to “bring the whole f*cking system down”.

Despite a “gag order”, he continued to call for accountability from the US military’s leadership, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, and announced his intentions to charge the head of US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie Jr, with “dereliction of duty”.

But before he could bring his own charges of dereliction of duty, Mr Scheller was taken into custody on 27 September and thrown in the brig ahead of being charged and court-martialed.

Judge Hines said Mr Scheller’s service record was “outstanding” before the series of videos in the aftermath of the chaotic evacuation from Kabul’s airport.

“I don’t think I’ve seen an officer consistently in, as we say, the top three blocks of the Christmas tree. He was on a consistent upward path,” he said, as reported by The Daily Mail. “[But] Those who deviated from standards have to be held accountable,” he added.

In his sentencing hearing, Mr Scheller reportedly told the court his life was “spiralling” after his wife left him and he lost a small business when he made videos criticizing senior military leadership.

He added that he was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation while criticizing the US military’s leadership, but not after deployments or during traumatic periods of his life.

“Since this endeavour began, not a single general officer has accepted accountability,” he said in prepared testimony obtained by The Washington Times.

“I am standing here pleading guilty. This is me accepting accountability. But it deeply pains me that my senior leaders are incapable of being as courageous.”

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