A pretrial detention hearing is scheduled Tuesday for Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a decorated Marine Corps officer now being held without charges at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, after he publicly excoriated the U.S. military commanders’ handling of the chaotic final days of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
A source close to the case said the Initial Review Officer in the case will determine whether there is probable cause to believe Lt. Col. Scheller, a former battalion commander at the base, committed an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Under the military justice system, a commander can order a subordinate into pre-trial confinement. Marine Corps officials said Lt. Col. Scheller, who has attracted a sizable group of supporters on Capitol Hill for speaking out, is not “facing charges” at the moment. But the offenses in an Article 32 hearing include contempt toward officials; willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer; failure to obey lawful general orders and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
“The allegations against Lt. Col. Scheller are merely accusations. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Marine Corps officials said in a statement last week.
He has been locked up in the brig at Camp Lejeune for a week after several social media posts that were sharply critical of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan and the failure of senior officials to take responsibility. In one of his Facebook posts, he wrote that “senior officials in the government and political establishment are allowed to abuse their power at the expense of the everyday American.”
Lt. Col. Scheller was fired from his job as an infantry training battalion commander at Camp Lejeune following his initial public statements and was ordered to refrain from any other social media posts. Although he was close to securing a 20-year pension from the Marine Corps, Lt. Col. Scheller said he was willing to sacrifice that financial security to air his complaints.
Lt. Col. Scheller’s detention has resulted in public protests in Jacksonville, N.C., the nearest town to Camp Lejeune, and letters from members of Congress demanding his release. Supporters have pledged about $2.5 million for his legal defense, assuming the case goes that far.
While his case has been championed by many opponents of the current administration, Lt. Col. Scheller has criticized both Republican and Democratic leaders.
“While I respect your foreign policy positions, I hate how you divided the country. I don’t need or want your help,” he wrote of former President Trump in one of his Facebook posts. Meanwhile, he called former President Obama “great at speeches [but] obviously weak in any intestinal fortitude.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, called the pretrial confinement of Lt. Col. Scheller “retaliatory” and said the treatment of him by Marine Corps leadership “must not be tolerated.” Some three dozen lawmakers signed a letter last week urging Marine Corps officials to free the lieutenant colonel as he awaited the hearing.