By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times –
SAN DIEGO — A Marine sergeant who criticized President Barack Obama on Facebook was notified Wednesday that he is being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge.
Gary Stein, 26, a nine-year veteran who served in Iraq, will be demoted to lance corporal, and his discharge status will make him ineligible for most federal veterans benefits, after Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo accepted the unanimous recommendation of an Administrative Separation Board.
The panel found that he made disparaging comments about Obama that were detrimental to good order and discipline and violated military law.
Civilian lawyers for Stein said they would continue to fight in federal court to prevent Stein from being dismissed or to win his reinstatement. The administrative paperwork for Stein’s dismissal should take a week or more, Marine officials said.
Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative U.S. Justice Foundation said Stein’s First Amendment rights were being violated by the Marine Corps.
“I don’t believe Sgt. Stein did anything other than engage in political speech,” said the ACLU’s David Loy. “Since the days of Valley Forge, I seriously doubt that there haven’t been members of the armed forces who haven’t complained about their government.”
Gary Kreep of the U.S. Justice Foundation said he believes Stein was targeted by the Obama administration.
After the announcement of Yoo’s decision, Stein put a post on his Facebook page thanking his family and friends for their support.
“Even though I will be discharged no one can take the title of Marine away from me,” the post said. “ … Today is just the start of the rest of my life. Semper Fi.”
On Facebook postings, Stein had called Obama a coward and an enemy, vowed not to salute him, declared he would not follow orders from Obama that he considered illegal, and urged the president’s electoral defeat.
One of the websites was an Armed Forces Tea Party page on Facebook created by Stein, who sought to sell bumper stickers printed with “NOBAMA 2012.”
Stein, a weather forecaster, recently lost his security clearance and was working as a scheduler on the rifle range at Camp Pendleton.
A Marine spokesman said Yoo, commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, “found the (separation) board was conducted in accordance with law and regulation, the findings of misconduct were supported by the evidence of record, and thus approved the board’s recommendation.”
Stein’s current enlistment would have ended in late July. He had hoped to re-enlist.