A Marine Corps jury found a drill instructor guilty Thursday on a charge he mistreated a recruit, who died in a three-story fall in a stairwell at a military training base last year after he was slapped.
After deliberating for a day, the eight-member jury panel — which included eight male Marines senior to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix — returned its verdicts in the case against the former drill instructor, who was accused of punching, kicking and choking recruits, as well as specific charges of failing to obey orders and obstruction of justice.
Felix also was specifically accused of targeting three Muslim recruits — including Raheel Siddiqui — calling them “terrorists” and ordering the two others into industrial dryers the summer before Siddiqui’s death.
The jury returned a guilty verdict against Felix for slapping the recruit from Taylor, Mich., and forcing him to run laps in the Parris Island, S.C., barracks even though he had asked for medical attention for a sore, bleeding throat just before his death.
The jury, while finding Felix guilty of maltreating Siddiqui and both of the other Muslim recruits, did not find Felix guilty for referring to Siddiqui as a “terrorist,” with witnesses at the trial suggesting he may have been joking. Felix, however, was found guilty of ordering another Muslim recruit, Lance Cpl. Ameer Bourmeche, to do exercises in the shower room after lights out and then climb into an industrial dryer, which was turned on briefly.
Felix was found guilty of eight counts of violating training orders regarding multiple recruits over two years, as well as charges of making false official statements and being drunk and disorderly. He was found not guilty of an obstruction of justice charge related to an accusation that he told recruits to hide information about Siddiqui’s death.
Sentencing is expected to occur Friday morning at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where the trial was held. All together, Felix could face years of confinement, loss of pay and rank, and could be expelled from the Marine Corps.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense spoke immediately after the verdicts. The lawyer for Siddiqui’s family, Shiraz Khan, did not immediately return a call for comment on the verdict either.
The verdict was a clear victory for the prosecution, however, which made its closing arguments Wednesday. Lt. Col. John Norman described Felix as “drunk on power” during his time as a drill instructor, saying he purposely targeted Muslim recruits but violated orders by his treatment of many others as well, including allegations he forced recruits to choke other recruits and hit recruits in the face.
“He wasn’t making Marines, he was breaking Marines,” Norman said during his closing arguments. During the prosecution’s case, dozens of former recruits were called to testify.
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SOURCE: USA Today; Detroit Free Press, Todd Spangler