- Associated Press - Friday, April 6, 2012

CAMP PENDLETON, CALIF. (AP) - A Marine facing dismissal from the military for his Facebook comments went as far as superimposing images of President Barack Obama’s face on a poster for the movie “Jackass,” a prosecutor said Thursday.

The prosecutor, Capt. John Torresala, said the behavior by Marine Sgt. Gary Stein repeatedly violated Pentagon policy that limits the free speech rights of service members.

The comments came at a military administrative hearing where Torresala described Stein as irresponsible and said he should be dismissed from the military after ignoring warnings from his superiors about his postings.

The government submitted screen grabs of Stein’s postings on one Facebook page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, which the prosecutor said included the image of Obama on the “Jackass” movie poster. Stein also superimposed Obama’s image on a poster for “The Incredibles” movie that he changed to “The Horribles,” the prosecutor said.

Torresala also said anti-Obama comments by Stein that were posted on a Facebook page used by Marine meteorologists were prejudicial to good order and discipline, and could have influenced junior Marines.

Stein’s security clearance was taken away and he has no future in the Marine Corps because he can’t do his job without that clearance, Torresala said.

“The Marine Corps community views the command’s lack of action as some kind of knock on good order and discipline,” Torresala said. “Our own people are questioning why this Marine is not being held accountable.”

Stein’s defense attorney, Marine Capt. James Baehr, said during the hearing that prosecutors were trying to dredge up any damaging information they could against Stein.

“There is no basis in this case,” Baehr said. “Sgt. Stein has broken no law.”

The military has had a policy since the Civil War limiting the free speech of service members, including criticism of the commander in chief.

Pentagon directives say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement.

Commissioned officers also may not use contemptuous words against senior officials.

Backed by a team of lawyers and congressmen, Stein has said he is fighting for his constitutional rights and should be allowed to stay in the military. His lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union contend his views are protected by the First Amendment.

“Think about how dangerous this could be if the U.S. government can prosecute you for something you say on your private Facebook page,” Baehr said.

Stein has said his opinions are his own and has put a disclaimer on his Facebook page saying so. His attorneys argued service members have a right to voice their opinions as long as they do not appear to be presenting their views as being endorsed by the military. They say the Pentagon policy is vague and military officials do not understand it.

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