By Ellie Kaufman, CNN
A Marine who posted videos on social media criticizing top military leaders’ handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan pleaded guilty to six charges in a military court at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, on Thursday.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller has been charged with six counts, including “contempt towards officials,” “disrespect toward superior commissioned officers,” and “dereliction in the performance of duties,” after videos of him criticizing military leaders about their handling of the withdrawal went viral.
Scheller appeared in the military court room in his Marine Corps uniform, flanked by his military attorney and his private attorney sitting at a small table in front of the judge.
Judge Col. Glen Hines asked Scheller if he was guilty on each charge. Scheller responded that he was each time the judge asked him.
When Hines asked Scheller why he posted the first video, Scheller said the “Secretary of Defense made decisions that led to the failure in the withdrawal of Afghanistan.”
The first video, which Scheller posted on August 26 during the withdrawal, was directed at Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Scheller said. “To me, military leaders have an obligation to stand up for what they believe is right,” Scheller told the judge.
Scheller said sometimes military leaders need to have the “moral courage” to do that.
The judge asked if Scheller was calling out Austin when Scheller said Austin should “throw his rank on the table,” in the first video. Scheller said he was.
Scheller, who has been in the US Marine Corps since 2005, stands to lose pay and other military benefits if he receives a discharge that is not honorable from the military.
Scheller’s first video was posted the same day that 13 US service members and more than 170 others were killed in an attack outside Kabul’s airport, according to the Pentagon and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.
He appeared in uniform in the first video on August 26 and in subsequent videos he posted on his Facebook page during the month of September.
In a Facebook post on September 25, Scheller said he didn’t want or need help from former President Donald Trump, who was trying to weigh in on his behalf.
“President Trump, I was told by everyone to kiss the ring because of your following and power. I refuse,” Scheller wrote on Facebook. “I hate how you divided the country. I don’t need or want your help… tell your son to stop tweeting about me.”
“Your whole family knows nothing about US or our sacrifices. I could never work with you,” Scheller wrote in the same post. “I’d rather sit in jail and be released with a dishonorable than make compromises in my beliefs.”
Scheller was placed in pretrial confinement at the Regional Brig for Marine Corps Installations East at Camp Lejeune after being charged. He was released from the Brig on October 5, according to a US Marine Corps press release.
After the first video was posted, Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jim Stenger said in a statement that Scheller had been relieved of command “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.”
“This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine. There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media,” Stenger said.
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