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Marine sergeant booted for criticism of Obama

April 25, 2012 | 12:26 pm

Gary Stein leaving federal court in San Diego

A Marine sergeant who criticized President Obama on Facebook pages is being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo accepted the unanimous recommendation of an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that Sgt. Gary Stein be dismissed for making  disparaging comments about the commander-in-chief that were disruptive to "good order and discipline" and violated military law.

Stein, 26, a nine-year veteran who served in Iraq, had called Obama a coward and an enemy, vowed not to salute him and called for his defeat in this year's election. One of the websites was an Armed Forces Tea Party page on Facebook that was created by Stein, who sought to sell bumper stickers printed with "NOBAMA 2012."

Stein's civilian lawyers had sought to have his discharge blocked in federal court on grounds that his 1st Amendment rights were being violated by the Marine Corps. A federal judge in San Diego refused their request but the lawyers have vowed to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

Stein was informed of the general's decision Wednesday. It will take at least a week for the administrative paperwork to be completed, a Marine spokesman said.

Yoo is commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. A weather forecaster, Stein had recently lost his security clearance and was working as a scheduler on the rifle range at Camp Pendleton.

A Marine spokesman said Yoo "found the [separation] board was conducted in accordance with law and regulation, that the findings of misconduct were supported by the evidence of record, and thus approved the board's recommendation."

Stein is being demoted to lance corporal. His discharge status will make him ineligible for veterans benefits. The separation board was comprised of a lieutenant colonel, a major and a sergeant-major.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

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