Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, who gained viral attention for his criticism of senior military leaders about their handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, pleaded guilty on Thursday to all six offenses stemming from his critical remarks.
Fox News reported that Scheller pleaded guilty to all the misdemeanor level charges, which included 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.
Scheller’s guilty plea comes on the very first day of his court-martial case.
On Tuesday, one of Scheller’s attorneys, Tim Parlatore, told the Washington Post that his client was planning to plead guilty in exchange for a favorable discharge status. Parlatore said Scheller felt that 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 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.’”
In subsequent videos and social media posts, Scheller continued to publicly criticize military leaders and was even briefly held in a military brig for violating a gag order with his continued criticisms.
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 last week that Scheller was working out a plea agreement with 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. On Tuesday, Parlatore told the Washington Post that some of the details of the pretrial agreement were “still up in the air.”
It was not immediately clear if the pretrial agreement was finalized before the start of court on Thursday.
Scheller’s team was hoping he would avoid any jail time and either receive an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions, which would allow him to keep some military benefits.
“Our hope is for him to get a letter of reprimand, and no more,” Parlatore told the Washinton Post.