Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, the officer who caught viral attention for his videos and social media posts criticizing senior military leaders for the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, is planning to plead guilty and is hoping for a favorable discharge status in his court-martial case this week.
In a phone interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday, one of Scheller’s attorneys, Tim Parlatore, said Scheller is prepared to plead guilty but the defense team is still working out a pretrial agreement. Parlatore said he couldn’t get into the specifics of an agreement as some of its details are “still up in the air” but Scheller felt after his viral calls for accountability from military leaders it would “make him a hypocrite” if he didn’t also accept responsibility for his own actions.
Scheller will appear for a pubic court-martial hearing on Thursday, October 14. at 9 a.m. at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, whose Pipe Hitter Foundation has been fundraising for Scheller, announced the court date in a Friday post on Instagram. Fox News subsequently reported Scheller’s court-martial case will continue on Friday, October 15.
Scheller was charged last week with six counts of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The charges include contempt toward officials; disrespect toward superior commissioned officers; willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer; dereliction in the performance of duties; failure to obey an order or regulation and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. The charges are the equivalent of misdemeanor-level offenses. The charges against Scheller were referred by Maj. Gen. Julian Alford, who heads Marine Training Command.
Scheller is now hoping to avoid any jail time and either receive an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions, which would allow Scheller to keep some military benefits.
“Our hope is for him to get a letter of reprimand, and no more,” Parlatore told the Washinton Post.
Scheller first caught viral attention for a video he made on August 26 — the same day that 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing attack at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan while evacuating Americans and Afghans. In his original video, Scheller said, “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability and saying ‘we messed this up.’”
From the start, Scheller acknowledged his critical remarks could put him in trouble and in a second video, Scheller offered to resign his officer’s commission. Despite his offer, the military did not accept Scheller’s resignation and he has remained in a military uniform and at risk of receiving punishment under the military justice system.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Coffee or Die Magazine was the first publication to report on a potential plea agreement between Scheller’s defense team and military prosecutors. According to a document leaked to Coffee or Die Magazine, Scheller and a Marine Corps legal team led by Lt. Col. Alan Schuller had worked out what the publication described as a rough “de-escalation and mitigation” for adjudicating Scheller’s case.
Scheller cause has also received some political support after 21 Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, signed a letter calling on Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and Gen. Alford to grant Scheller’s offer to resign.
“Lt. Col. Scheller is willing to accept responsibility for speaking out by resigning his commission,” Gohmert wrote in the letter he provided to Coffee or Die. “No other military leader has shown such integrity for their missteps during the retreat and surrender that failed.”
Parlatore also told the Washington Post that his client was experiencing some emotional distress after posting his first video.
“There is no question that there is some severe emotional distress throughout, and he definitely went to some very dark places,” Parlatore said. “This is unfortunately not uncommon for a lot of the veteran community.”