A military judge Friday ordered U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller to forfeit one month's worth of pay, or $5,000, and receive a letter of reprimand in exchange for his guilty plea after posting several videos on social media where he criticized top military leaders over their handling of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
His attorney tells Newsmax the next challenge will be in the determination of what type of discharge he'll receive.
"We're asking for, of course, an honorable discharge, but it could be a general discharge under honorable conditions," Scheller's lawyer, Tony Buzbee, told Newsmax's "National Report" in an interview before the decision was handed down. "I'm really hoping for an honorable discharge because he was an honorable Marine and is an honorable Marine."
U.S. Marine Corps Judge Col. Glen Hines found Scheller guilty Friday after the Marine entered guilty pleas on Thursday to charges of contempt toward officers, disrespect toward superior commissioned officers, and failure to obey an order or regulation in a series of videos that went viral, reports CNN.
Hines said he watched all of Scheller's videos Thursday night, and found they showed someone who is "in pain" and maybe "confused," and noted that the Marine had an almost-perfect record in terms of conduct until last month.
The military judge did not rule on the matter of discharge, however, reports CNN. As part of the plea agreement tha thas been reached, Scheller will likely either get an honorable discharge or a general discharge, but that will be decided by the secretary of the Navy, the judge said.
If the secretary of the Navy opts to give Scheller a a discharge at a level lower than general under honorable conditions, Scheller can forward the matter to a board of inquiry made up of Marines at higher ranks than his.
He said he'll only ask for that to happen if his discharge does not fall within the ones specified in the plea agreement.
Meanwhile, Buzbee told Newsmax that Scheller is being punished because he spoke truth to power.
"What's important to note here is that unlike many of the individuals who were responsible for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Scheller has taken accountability for his actions. We thought about fighting the case, but [he] said, 'look, I said what I said. I meant what I said. I still believe it to be true.'"
The attorney added that Scheller's defense included several people who served with him, who testified the lieutenant colonel was the "best Marine they ever served with."
But no matter which form of discharge Scheller gets, he'll still lose his retirement pay and benefits, to the tune of at least $2 million, said Buzbee.
Hines said that he considered docking Scheller's pay by two months, but decided to limit it to one month because he'd spent nine days in confinement, or the brig, at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. The military procedings were also held at the North Carolina base.
Buzbee said that many people were "outraged and frustrated and upset" by the withdrawal, particularly when a terrorist attack on Aug. 26 killed 13 U.S. military personnel at the Kabul International Airport during the evacuation proceedings.
"Here's a man that served 17 years, and is three years from vesting retirement, at about $2 million to $2.5 million that he's losing in addition to health benefits and other benefits," said Buzbee.
The attorney said Scheller's message is resonating nationwide, and that he's appreciating the support he's received, but "let's not forget, you know, they took a Marine who was distinguished and decorated and put him in the brig."
Scheller was also deemed a flight risk, "which was ridiculous on its face, when you consider his 17 years of honorable service and the fact that he's married and has three children."
Scheller also still loves the Marine Corps and is proud of his service, said Buzbee.
"He has stepped forward and set an example about accountability, and I don't think it's too much to ask for the individuals responsible for the planning or lack thereof with the withdrawal of Afghanistan to also step forward, when we see generals testifying in front of Congress trying to make the case that, uh, that was an operational and tactical success."
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