Lt Col Stuart Scheller pleaded guilty to all charges after defying a gag order to criticise the US military’s chaotic withdrawal of Afghanistan, which left 13 Americans dead.
The marine entered a guilty plea to six misdemeanour charges during the court-martial at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
He reportedly told the court his life was “spiralling” when he made videos criticising senior military leadership, adding that his wife left him and his business had failed.
“My life was spiralling at this time. I was receiving messages that I was going to be court-martialed because of my statements,” he said, according to The Daily Mail.
“My wife had left me and I had a small business taken from me,” he reportedly added.
Mr Scheller was freed from pre-trial confinement in a military brig ahead of the court-martial on Thursday to face charges including conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, as well as counts of contempt, disrespect, disobedience and dereliction of duties.
Defence attorney Tim Parlatore told reporters before the hearing that Mr Scheller, like any criminal defendant, wasn’t feeling “that great” but was looking forward to accepting responsibility to put the issue “to rest”.
“This case all began with a demand for accountability, and so what he’s going to do here today is he’s going to show the Pentagon what it looks like to stand up and take accountability for your actions,” Mr Parlatore said.
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.
“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say ‘hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone,’” Mr Scheller said in the video
“Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say ‘we completely messed this up.’”
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 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 charged with dereliction of duty himself.
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