Lt Col Stuart Scheller will face a court-martial after defying a gag order to criticise the US military’s chaotic withdrawal of Afghanistan, which left 13 Americans dead.
Charges include conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, as well as various counts of contempt, disrespect, disobedience and dereliction of duties.
Mr Scheller was released from military prison on Tuesday ahead of the charges being referred to a special court-martial on Wednesday, 6 October, US Marine spokesman Captain Sam Stephenson told The Independent. He added that hearings have not been scheduled in the case.
Mr Scheller rose to national prominence after publicly criticising the withdrawal of US troops, citizens and allies from Afghanistan, which left 13 Americans dead.
He was fired on 27 August after calling on his supporters to help him to “bring the whole f***ing system down”.
Despite a “gag order”, he continued to call for accountability from the US military’s leadership, including Defence 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 charged with dereliction of duty himself.
It came after Mr Scheller continued criticizing senior military leadership on Facebook despite being issued a “gag order”. That included “any and all material, in any form”, to any social media, mass emails, group text messages or through third parties, according to a post to Mr Scheller’s Facebook.
“What happens when you communicate an order that stipulates you to stop communicating?” Mr Scheller wrote on Facebook.
It appeared Mr Scheller expected to be taken in into custody for violating the order, ending his post with the message: “Col Emmel please have the MPs waiting for me at 0800 on Monday. I’m ready for jail.”
Mr Scheller’s release on Tuesday was the result of a “mutual agreement” between his defence counsel and the US Marines, according to Mr Stephenson.
Asked about a Marine’s constitutional rights to free speech, Mr Stephenson said the military has forums to raise concerns within the chain of command.
“In a general sense not specific to any case, posting to social media criticizing the chain of command is not the proper manner in which to raise concerns,” he said in a statement.
“Orders and directives regulate the conduct of members of our military and ensure good order and discipline. Adhering to these orders is every service member’s obligation, backed by an oath of enlistment or commissioning… failure to adhere to such orders and directives may subject them to prosecution for that failure under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The specific charges Mr Scheller is facing under the Uniform Code of Military Justice are Article 88 (Contempt toward officials), Article 89 (Disrespect toward superior commissioned officers),
Article 90 (Willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer), Article 92 (Dereliction in the performance of duties), Article 92 (Failure to obey order or regulation), and Article 133 (Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman).
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