A Marine who incurred the wrath of the Corps for inflammatory comments on a Facebook page will not get a preliminary injunction to stay discharge from the Corps, a judge at California’s Southern District Court decided late last week.
Sgt. Gary Stein, of Temecula, Calif., grabbed headlines early this month after he went before a discharge panel to defend himself for posts made on his Facebook group, Armed Services Tea Party, which disparaged President Barack Obama and critically discussed other elected officials and policy matters. At the end of the week, the three-member military panel voted that Stein be given an other-than-honorable discharge, ending an eight-year military career. The panel’s convening authority, Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, has less than 30 days to confirm the panel’s decision to discharge Stein, which he is widely expected to do.
A Marine spokesman confirmed late Friday that Yoo has yet to act on the matter.
But Gary Kreep, founder of the U.S. Justice Foundation and a lawyer who filed the injunction request on Stein’s behalf, said the Marine’s fight was not yet over. He said that he would continue to fight for Stein within the judicial system, alleging that Stein had been rushed out of the Corps without clear justification.
While troops are prohibited from political demonstrations and activity while in uniform or representing their service, limited political speech is permitted. Further complicating the issue is social media, which is not clearly governed under a binding Defense Department policy, although individual services have issued guidance for its use. And the Corps did indirectly acknowledge that weakness in their case last week, with officials admitting that they are composing a formal request to Pentagon leadership for a clearer, more binding social media policy.
Stein’s legal team brought the implications of prosecution for statements on social media to the attention of military officials during the hearing last week. According to an official statement made to California’s Southern District Court referencing the hearing, the team unearthed a 2005 Facebook photograph of a member of the military prosecution team, Capt. Gavin Logan, showing him in full uniform with the caption, “You shut the F— up. We’ll protect America. Keep out of our F—— way liberal p——.”
Kreep said Logan should be just as culpable as Stein, with the Marine Corps’ reasoning.
“There’s obviously an agenda here,” he said. They’re making a scapegoat and an example out of the sergeant.”
While Stein has received criticism from the left and right for his actions, he has also gotten some strong voices of support in Congress.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has backed Stein up throughout the discharge hearing and proceedings.
And last week another former service member in Congress, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), a retired lieutenant colonel, added his voice.
“I am sad to see a Marine Sergeant may lose his career because he dared to criticize the President on a Facebook page,” West said in a statement. “Should we have disciplined this young (non-comissioned officer)? Yes. But to end this Warrior’s career with a less than honorable discharge is not the answer… Maybe if America had leadership that gained the respect of our military, instead of simply using them as stage props for speeches, this atmosphere would not exist.”