Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller’s defense team has criticized military officials for leaking case documents ahead of an Oct. 14 trial by special court-martial, saying that the leak is designed to harm Scheller’s reputation and distract people from his calls for accountability for senior leadership’s disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal.
On Oct. 9, Task and Purpose published a story based on leaked documents that purport to show Scheller’s support for the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol breach.
Scheller’s Jan. 6 comments don’t come from his public videos or statements made on his social media, but rather an alleged conversation he had with an unnamed executive officer, according to the Task and Purpose story.
One of Scheller’s attorneys, Timothy Parlatore, told The Epoch Times that the alleged conversation was taken out of context. Scheller was only commenting on how the Jan. 6 situation could have been worse, according to Parlatore.
Parlatore said the leaked legal documents are designed to “hurt Lt. Col Scheller” ahead of his trial. The U.S. Marine faces charges of contempt toward officials, disrespect toward superior commissioned officers, willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, dereliction in the performance of duties, failure to obey order or regulation, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
“It’s something I’ve seen plenty of times in other cases. When the public narrative isn’t going towards the government’s preferred narrative, they have a tendency to selectively leak documents to try to change that narrative,” Parlatore said, adding that the documents may not have come from the prosecution, but from other military officials.
Along with facing criticism for leaving behind Americans, allies, and billions of dollars of weapons, senior officials also have come under fire in recent weeks for making false and misleading statements about a botched Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed innocent Afghan civilians.
For weeks after the strike, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted the bombing was a “righteous strike,” and that any civilian deaths resulted from secondary explosions.
But after a Sept. 10 New York Times investigation raised doubts about the veracity of the military’s claims, the Department of Defense later admitted that the drone strike killed 10 civilians, seven of which were children—and no terrorists.
At a Sept. 29 congressional hearing, Milley and two other top military officials further made the stunning admission that they knew “within hours” that the strike had killed civilians—suggesting that they knowingly lied about the incident for weeks.
“We knew the strike hit civilians within four to five hours after the strike occurred, and U.S. Central Command issued a press release saying that,” Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie said on Sept. 29, contradicting numerous earlier statements that officials had no indication of civilian deaths until later.
“When people in the military like Lt. Col. Scheller stand up and demand accountability, when they say you all screwed up, when they point out General Milley’s statement that Afghanistan’s not going to be defeated by the Taliban—well, he ends up in a brig, and you all end up in front of us,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said during the Sept. 29 hearing.
“And your [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s] former employer Raytheon ends up with a lot of money, and we have poured cash and blood and credibility into a Ghani government that was a mirage.”
Parlatore said he wanted to remind the public that this is what his client’s case is about: an attempt to hold senior military leadership accountable.
“An entire generation of warriors went over there. We gave our youth, our health, our limbs, and, in some cases, our lives. With the events of the past couple of months, there should be some accountability for why things went down the way they did, and to provide some accountability and peace for these warriors who have given so much,” Parlatore said.
“And of course that extends to this drone strike. Why was it presented as a “righteous strike”?
Parlatore added that his client is willing to accept accountability for his actions; he thinks senior military officials should do the same.
“He didn’t just talk the talk, he’s going to walk the walk and accept accountability—as he would hope others would do,” Parlatore said.