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Marine Facebook case: Judge rejects appeal to halt discharge

April 13, 2012 | 12:11 pm

For a third time, a federal judge Friday refused to halt the U.S. Marine Corps' process of discharging a sergeant who posted critical comments about President Obama on Facebook.

District Judge Marilyn Huff refused a request from civilian attorneys for Sgt. Gary Stein to halt the dismissal. The attorneys said they will appeal to the 9th Circuit Court.

An Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton last week voted 3-0 to recommend that Stein should be dismissed and given an other-than-honorable discharge for making comments "prejudicial to good order and discipline." 

The decision will be made by the commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Stein's civilian attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative U.S. Justice Foundation argue that the Marine Corps is unfairly punishing the 26-year-old Stein, a nine-year veteran whose service includes a deployment to Iraq, for using his 1st Amendment rights.

On a Facebook page that he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, Stein called Obama a coward and a religious and economic enemy of the American people. On another Facebook page, he vowed that he would not salute Obama. He is also selling "Nobama" 2012 bumper stickers.

If Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo at the recruit depot accepts the separation board recommendation, Stein could be dismissed before the end of his current enlistment in late July. An other-than-honorable discharge would make him ineligible for veterans' benefits.

Huff last week declined to order that the Marine Corps not hold the separation board hearing. After the board's recommendation, she refused to order a halt to the dismissal process.


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--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Gary Stein leaving federal court in San Diego last week. Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune