Judge won’t block discharge of Marine critical of president

SAN DIEGO — For a second time, a federal judge Friday refused to order a halt to the Marine Corps’ process of discharging a sergeant who made comments critical of President Barack Obama on Facebook.

District Judge Marilyn Huff refused a request from civilian attorneys for Sgt. Gary Stein to issue a temporary restraining order to block the discharge process.

But she did schedule a hearing for next Friday to hear the attorneys’ assertion that the Marine Corps is violating Stein’s First Amendment rights and that the Administrative Separation Board is an unfair process that denies due process.

The board Thursday night voted 3-0 to recommend that Stein be dismissed from the Marine Corps with an other-than-honorable discharge. The recommendation will be sent to the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

On Wednesday, Huff had turned down a request from Stein’s civilian lawyers to order the Department of Defense and Marine Corps not to hold the board hearing.

In civilian court, Stein is represented by attorneys from the U.S. Justice Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Oathkeepers, as well as J. Mark Brewer from a firm in Houston and lawyers from a firm in Vienna, Va.

Stein’s lawyers, in seeking a restraining order in San Diego federal court, said the Administrative Separation Board hearing at Camp Pendleton was unfair because the board refused to hear several defense witnesses, including a retired Marine Corps brigadier general.

Stein’s impending discharge is “unjust and illegal,” the lawyers said.

If Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, agrees with the Administrative Separation Board’s recommendation, the 26-year-old Stein could be discharged before his enlistment ends in late July. An other-than-honorable discharge would make him ineligible for veterans’ benefits.

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