Panel recommends discharge of Marine who criticized president
CAMP PENDLETON (CNS) – A three-member military panel is unanimously
recommending that a Camp Pendleton Marine sergeant be expelled from the Corps
for posting comments critical of President Barack Obama on a Facebook page he
created under the name Armed Forces Tea Party.
The ruling in the case of Sgt. Gary Stein, 26, came Thursday night
following a 13-hour hearing and an hour-long deliberation session at Camp
Pendleton, U-T San Diego reported.
The panel's recommendation will be forwarded to Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo,
the commanding general of the San Diego Marine Corps Recruiting Depot and
Western Recruiting Region, who will make the final decision on whether to
discharge Stein and under what conditions.
Stein was put on notice of a possible violation of the Uniform Code of
Justice last month after he said on Facebook that he would not follow certain
orders from the president. He later clarified the comments, saying he would not
follow any unlawful orders from the commander-in-chief. He further said he
believed his online activity was protected under the First Amendment.
Stein reacted to Thursday night's ruling by immediately standing up and
walking out of the room, without saying a word, according to U-T San Diego. His
lawyers told the newspaper they were disappointed.
Prior to the hearing at Camp Pendleton, Stein sought an injunction from
the U.S. District Court, arguing that he could not get a fair trial from
military panelists. His request was denied.
Stein's lawyers were expected to regroup this morning to discuss a new
move, which could possibly be an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals. The appeal would be over the U.S. District Court ruling, not the
military panel's decision.
Stein, a nine-year veteran from Temecula, attracted national media
attention after he started the Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page in 2010.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Diego, Stein alleged that
during the 17-month period from November 2010 through March 1, neither his
commanding officer nor any other officer tried to restrict his Facebook
activities. Nor, he says, was he told his Facebook activities prejudiced good
order and discipline. The lawsuit claimed Stein's free speech rights were