- The marine who was jailed after slamming military leadership for the Afghanistan withdrawal was found guilty of all charges Thursday, a person familiar with the case told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “I have been fighting for 17 years, and I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders ‘I demand accountability,’” Scheller said in an earlier video posted to his social media before he was thrown in the brig.
- Scheller waived his right to a trial by jury and instead requested a military judge trial, according to the person familiar with the case.
The marine who spoke out publicly against the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was found guilty on all charges and specifications at a court-martial hearing Thursday, a person familiar with the case told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“I have been fighting for 17 years, and I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders ‘I demand accountability,’” Scheller said in the video.
He later posted that he was “relieved for the cause” and “ordered to refrain from posting.”
Scheller was subsequently thrown in the brig and was later released.
Scheller pleaded guilty on all six charges, including showing contempt toward officials, disobeying an officer, disrespecting officers, failing to abide by regulation, abandoning his duties and displaying behavior unbecoming of an officer. The terms of his discharge and sentencing are pending.
The person familiar with the case told the DCNF that Scheller waived his right to a jury trial and instead opted for a trial by military judge.
The DCNF obtained a copy of Scheller’s stipulation of fact document submitted to the court. The person familiar with the case told the DCNF that the judge had accepted and conducted an inquiry into Scheller’s guilty plea, which required Scheller to explain why he is guilty.
“Why do you think you are guilty for Spec I [showing contempt toward officials],” the judge asked, according to the person familiar with the case.
Scheller answered: “I believed the Secretary of Defense made decisions that led to the failed withdraw of Afghanistan. Because I expressed his incompetence publicly, and since according to the UCMJ, truth or falsity of the statement is immaterial, I believe I am guilty of the charges.”
Scheller told the judge he believed Gen. David Berger’s Aug. 18 statement to the armed forces who may be struggling during the Afghanistan withdrawal “illustrated a lack of understanding.”
“I didn’t think he understood why the junior service members were frustrated following the failed Afghanistan withdraw,” Scheller said. “I believed his failure to diagnose the correct problem would ultimately lead to a higher suicide rate amongst Service Members and decreased combat effectiveness of the Marine Corps. And saying so in a public forum was disrespectful.”
Scheller told the judge he believed his statements about his superiors’ incompetence, but added it was “disrespectful to point out professional failures” because it “detracts from the respect their positions demand.”
Commenting on his statement that his commanding officer should have military police ready to arrest him, Scheller told the judge it was “disrespectful to tell my commanding officer how to discipline me in a public setting.”
On his charge of willfully disobeying an officer, Scheller told the judge, “I willfully disobeyed an order to tell hard truths. I believed the scope of the order was trying to prevent me from posting content that would bring discredit to the Marine Corps, which I chose to ignore.”
Asked why he did it, Scheller replied, “A message of accountability was more important than the lawfulness of my behavior. I chose to speak out knowing it is unlawful in an effort to illustrate the hypocrisy of my senior leaders.”
“Why do you think you are guilty?” the judge asked.
Scheller answered: “I have called for accountability of my senior leaders since the beginning, but I can acknowledge how MY actions were not conducted in a gentlemanly manner, and do not align with the expectations of an officer.”
“Do you understand the seriousness of this charge?” the judge asked.
Scheller answered: “I gave up my marriage, retirement, and freedoms to make these statements. Yes, I am aware this is serious.”
The U.S. Marine Corps did not immediately provide a statement to the DCNF.