Local Marine Lt. Colonel Stuart Scheller has been detained in the brig at Camp Lejeune after making critical comments of how leadership handled the Afghanistan pull-out on social media.
Documents obtained by WCPO show Scheller is suspected of violating the following articles:
- Contempt toward officials
- Willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer
- Failure to obey an order
- Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman
“People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none are saying we messed this up,” Scheller said in part of his Facebook video. “What you believe in is only defined by what you're willing to risk.”
Scheller's parents say his case will be a study in military law versus First Amendment rights.
Scheller's father told WCPO his son “spoke truth to power and they didn't like it.”
“In 17 years, he has done his job and never spoken,” Scheller's mother said.
Scheller's dad added, “so that day when 13 service members were killed, something snapped and he'd had enough.”
Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup's district is home for Scheller's parents. Wenstrup says he has spoken with them and acted as a conduit for information while Scheller is detained pre-trial.
“We have spoken early on to the leadership there: three-star generals,” Wenstrup told WCPO “Making sure Lt. Col. Scheller is being treated fairly. They said he's our Marine and we are going to take care of him.”
Wenstrup also talked about how the uniform code of military justice is different from what you see in the civilian sector. Attorney Michael Waddington, who has 21 years of experience in military law, agreed.
“You don’t have First Amendment rights as a military member like you would have as a civilian,” Waddington said. “If you’re trying to maintain good order and discipline is why they have these rules.”
Waddington told WCPO he was shocked the Marines put Scheller in pre-trial confinement. He thinks it's excessive, but he also said a case like this can have a chilling effect on other service men and women tempted to speak out.
Scheller's mom, Cathy, also thinks confinement is excessive. “He should have been reprimanded, and he expected that, but no one expected to throw him in prison.”
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman sent WCPO a statement about Scheller.
It reads in part: "Lt. Colonel Scheller's calls for accountability are warranted in the wake of the poor strategic decisions. That contributed to the deaths of 13 service members."
Portman also says he told Marine Corps leadership Friday he thinks Scheller should be released from the brig.
The Marine Corps also sent WCPO an email, but didn't address why Scheller is in the brig pre-trial. It does say no charges have been preferred in this case yet and that Scheller is innocent until proven guilty.