Chess marine Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller has been in and out of the brig. He was taken into custody on Sept. 27 for pretrial detention and has now been released pending court-martial.
After his confinement, twenty-seven members of Congress demanded Scheller’s release in a letter sent to Commandant General David H. Berger and his Staff Judge Advocate Major General David J. Bligh of the Marine Corps. The letter makes accusations that the move is political, “for messaging, retribution, and convenience,” and says that the signatories “do not believe and have seen no evidence that LTC Sheller[sic] poses a grave risk of criminal misconduct.”
Citing procedural requirements in Rule for Court Martial (RCM) 305, the letter says, “the service member’s commander must make a determination or show just cause that it is reasonably foreseeable that the service member will not appear at trial” and “that lesser forms of restraint are inadequate.”
The developments could not have been much of a surprise to Scheller. In a social media post two days before his arrest, Scheller wrote, “Col Emmel, please have the MP’s [military police] waiting for me at 0800 on Monday. I’m ready for jail.”
FOX News reported that Scheller was in solitary confinement at the brig at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC, where he had been relieved of command for the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion on Aug. 27. Newsmax reported that “Lawyers for the family” have provided a statement about his Oct. 5 release:
“An IRO hearing was scheduled to review Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller’s pretrial detention at 1:30 p.m. today. The Marine Corps refused to provide an open hearing or to record the hearing. Media outlets objected and asked that the hearing be delayed to allow for action in federal court. Prior to the hearing, the Marine Corps agreed to release Lt. Col. Scheller pending trial by court-martial. Lt. Col. Scheller remains subject to the unlawful gag order previously issued by his commander Col. David Emmel. Lt. Col. Scheller has submitted a request for redress regarding the unlawful order to his command. The command has not yet replied to the request. Lt. Col. Scheller has submitted a request for resignation of his commission in lieu of trial to the Secretary of the Navy. Numerous members of Congress have urged the Secretary to accept his request.”
Multiple outlets have published the official statement from the Marine Corps:
“Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr. is being released from confinement today, Oct. 5, 2021, as a result of a mutual agreement between Lt. Col. Scheller, his Defense counsel, and the Commanding General, Training Command. No additional details regarding the agreement may be released at this time.”
Scheller’s parents Stuart Scheller Sr. and Cathy Scheller appeared on Laura Ingraham while he was in custody. “It’s no coincidence in my opinion that they put a gag order on him and they put him in prison the day before they had to appear in front of senators—and tomorrow in front of congressmen,” said Scheller Sr., and that Generals Milley and Austin “should be embarrassed.”
Scheller had accused Central Command (CENTCOM) chief General Kenneth F. McKenzie of dereliction of duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). McKenzie testified about the withdrawal at a hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28 along with General Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The three faced another hearing in Congress the next day.
“They should drop their rank, and they should resign for that. Today’s hearing showed they won’t accept accountability for the mistakes they made. They wanted to blame everybody else. You and I both know Joe Biden won’t fire them,” Sr. said.
Cathy Scheller said that she had not been in contact with her son after an initial phone call. A fund accepting donations for “emergency relief funds,” “possible loss of benefits,” “family support,” and “mounting legal expenses” has already raised over $2.5 million as of this writing.
“Until 30 days ago, he was a hero to the leadership of the Marine Corps.” Scheller Sr. said. “When 13 of our servicemen died in the Kabul Airport, something inside of our son snapped. He was angry. He is principled—he is a very courageous and principled man—but when that happened, he had to go and ask his leaders for accountability. He had many active-duty Marines and veterans were asking is it worth it.”
Task & Purpose quotes Scheller Sr. as saying, “He’s asking for the same accountability that is expected of him and his men,” and of his imprisonment. “They had a gag order on him and asked him not to speak. He did, and they incarcerated him. They don’t know what to do with him.”
Though the source is not named, Task & Purpose tells us that the charges Lt. Col. Scheller faces are now known:
“Scheller is accused of the following offenses under the UCMJ: Article 88: Contempt toward officials, Article 90: Willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, Article 92: Failure to obey an order, and Article 133: Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, a Marine Corps spokesperson told Task & Purpose… However, it’s not yet certain whether Scheller will face a court-martial. The Marine will go through an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a court-martial.”
SofRep.com lists and describes potential sentences for those charges:
Scheller’s viral videos and social media posts called for accountability from U.S. military leadership for what he called “clear, obvious mistakes” during the Afghanistan withdrawal. He says it caused lawyers, family, and friends to advise him to stop making public statements.
Scheller had sent a Request for Resignation letter to the Secretary of the Navy four days after being relieved of his command, with an effective date of Sept. 11, 2021, and posted it to social media. The Daily Caller reported that Scheller’s offer to resign honorably had been rejected by Major General Julian Alford, the commander of the Marine Corps Training Command, “according to Marine Corps documents exclusively obtained.” Those documents were not, however, provided by the news organization.
Later posts on Scheller’s social media say he received an order from military authorities to “refrain from posting any and all material, in any form without exception.” According to Scheller, that order applied not just to social media but to mass emails, group texts, or anywhere similar.
The post that Scheller used to tell followers about the gag order simultaneously ignored it, as it contained highly controversial criticisms. Scheller addressed major U.S. foreign policy figures, including President Donald Trump, President Barrack Obama, General James Mattis, General David Petraeus, and General Michael Flynn. In another post the same day, he weighed in controversially on several political issues, as shown in prior UDC reporting about Chess Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller: