Court Will Not Intervene Marine’s Potential Dismissal Over Facebook Comments

Relief denied after military board recommends discharging Marine


A Marine facing a less-than-honorable discharge over comments he made on Facebook was denied a restraining order that would have temporarily halted his dismissal on Friday.

Sgt. Gary Stein sought relief from his case from U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff after a military board recommended dismissing him and stripping his benefits. Judge Huff declined to intervene for Stein, saying since she is not a military expert, she cannot rule on issues of military law.

Stein, a nine-year member of the U.S. Marines, started a Facebook group called "Armed Forces Tea Party" in 2010. Since its creation, the page displayed numerous posts criticizing President Barack Obama that Stein's commanding officers called into question.

The military board's recommendation was passed along to a general who will either accept or deny it. If the general agrees with the board, he could be denied veterans benefits and would not be allowed on military bases.

“How can some words that I wrote on Facebook outweigh my 9 years of service?” Stein asked of his potential discharge in court on Friday.

Stein's attorneys argued that last week’s hearing turned out being a “kangaroo court” and that defense witnesses should have been called to testify.

Although military expert David Brahms did not testify, he argues that Stein did not violate Article 134. The article mandates that any active military member who goes against the armed forces may be court marshaled. He says Stein was only guilty of exercising his First Amendment rights.

Stein and his legal team said it is anticipated that they will appeal the decision.

A posting brought up during the separation hearing last week was one with images of President  Obama's face superimposed on a jackass, the Associated Press reported. He also sold stickers that read "Nobama" online, the prosecutor said.

Another document brought forward in an earlier proceeding revealed that Stein posted on a Marine meteorology and oceanographic Facebook page March 23, "As an active Marine I say, 'Screw Obama' and I will not follow orders from him."

There were at least four other times a US Attorney told Stein to tone down his "inflammatory" political comments. His lawyers say the possibility of discharge is "absurd" and "heavy handed." The lawyers say USMC is trying to "railroad a good Marine out of the Corps" for expressing his First Amendment rights.

After Stein posted objections to President Barack Obama's healthcare policy and encouraged others to go against the orders of superiors if they disagree with the actions, the U.S. Marines Corps decided to reconsider a previous decision to not take punitive action against him.

The military started monitoring Stein's Facebook group after he posted his stance against prosecuting Americans for burning the Quran in Afghanistan.

Earlier attempts to delay the separation hearing in front of the military board were not granted by a Huff the day before the hearing. Huff said it was an "exceptionally complicated issue," but the courts should not have stepped in at that point.

Stein’s defense team said the Marine was exercising his First Amendment rights through his Facebook page.

“We believe that Sgt. Stein and other members of the military have a right to free speech just the same as you and I do,” said J. Mark Brewer, of Stein’s defense team.

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