Updated 12:38 p.m. Friday
A Camp Pendleton Marine facing expulsion from the military for posting comments critical of President Barack Obama on Facebook lost his bid today for a restraining order to stop the discharge proceedings.
Last week, a three-member military panel unanimously recommended that Sgt. Gary Stein, 26, be kicked out of the Marine Corps with an "other-than- honorable" discharge.
Stein went to federal court in hopes of obtaining a preliminary injunction to prevent his discharge, but U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff denied the request.
Attorneys said the Administrative Separation Board hearing was unfair and a violation of the First Amendment.
"They're processing him through as fast as they can," said Gary Kreep, one of Stein's attorneys. "They want to get rid of him."
Stein's lawyers said the panel refused to allow testimony from three experts in military law who would have testified on Stein's behalf.
But Huff said the military has a "process" to take care of such matters, saying the federal court would not get involved.
Stein was put on notice of a possible violation of the Uniform Code of Justice last month after he wrote on Facebook that he would not follow certain orders from the president. He later clarified the comments, saying he would not follow any unlawful orders from the commander-in-chief. He further said he believed his online activity was protected under the First Amendment.
Huff said she was troubled by Stein's posting, which read in part, "Screw Obama. I will not follow all orders from him."
The judge told one of Stein's attorneys, "You understand it's a pretty sensitive comment that he made," adding, "He can't do that."
Stein said his comment was made in the middle of a heated political debate.
The nine-year Marine Corps veteran said he was never told that anything he wrote was in violation of military policy. "I followed everything I've been told," Stein said outside court.
But looking back, the Marine said he shouldn't have made the statements about Obama.
"I said, C'mon Gary, that's not you," he told reporters.
Stein said he wants to re-enlist but his contract with the Marines is up July 28.
The Temecula resident, who is also a licensed real estate agent, said he will go "where the money is."
Stein's attorneys said they will look at all judicial remedies as the case moves forward.
Huff said Stein could seek to have his case reviewed by a military panel before a final decision is reached.
The judge said all citizens owe the military a debt of gratitude.
"It's a tribute to the system that he (Stein) wants to re-enlist," Huff said.
The military panel's recommendation will be forwarded to Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, the commanding general of the San Diego Marine Corps Recruiting Depot and Western Recruiting Region, who will make the final decision on whether to discharge Stein and under what conditions.
Stein attracted national media attention after he started the Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page in 2010.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Diego, Stein alleged that during the 17-month period from November 2010 through March 1, neither his commanding officer nor any other officer tried to restrict his Facebook activities. He also argued that he was not told his Facebook activities prejudiced good order and discipline. The lawsuit claimed Stein's free speech rights were violated.
— City News Service