Marine Corps sets 3 hearings in Parris Island hazing cases

AP News
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Posted: Dec 22, 2016 4:43 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The first public military court proceedings involving allegations of abuse and hazing at the Marine Corps' recruit training facility at Parris Island in South Carolina are set to begin in January, the Marine Corps announced on Thursday.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said arraignments for two Marines facing mid-level, or special courts-martial, in connection with the hazing accusations are Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

A third hearing known as an Article 32 is to be Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, at the same installation for a third Marine potentially facing a court martial. Such a preliminary hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding and helps determine if a court-martial is to be held or other types of military punishments might be considered.

Quantico is the home of the Marine Corps Training and Education Command and its commander, Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, has responsibility for developing and overseeing the service's training regime.

The cases arose from three separate investigations into accusations of hazing and abuse at the 100-year-old training installation, considered hallowed ground for its role in making civilians into Marines.

The investigations came to light following the March 18 death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui, of Taylor, Michigan, who fell several stories to his death in a barracks stairwell following an altercation with an unidentified drill instructor. His family has said they believe he was hazed, and do not accept the Marine Corps' finding that he committed suicide.

In September, the Marine Corps disclosed it was considering possible punishments for up to 20 Marine leaders at Parris Island in connection with hazing and abuse allegations.

Capt. Pena said none of the three hearings set in January are directly related to the Siddiqui case, but involved two other investigations of suspected abuse that were undertaken in the wake of Siddiqui's death.

The two Marines being arraigned are Staff Sgt. Matthew Bacchus, who has been charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice by violating a lawful order, cruelty and maltreatment, and making a false official statement.

The second is Sgt. Riley Gress, who has been charged with failure to obey a lawful general order, cruelty and maltreatment, and making a false official statement.

The third Marine facing the Article 32 hearing has not yet been identified, although the identity will become public when the hearing is held, Pena said.

"All the proceedings will be open to the public and the media," Pena said.

Lukeman has said the Marines are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that the charges being referred were accusations only.

Other accusations of maltreatment uncovered in the probes included name-calling, beatings, physical exercises ordered until recruits injured themselves, and even one case in which a recruit was reportedly placed inside a dryer as he was derided for his Muslim faith.

About 500 drill instructors are assigned to the Parris Island post. It is the only site where female Marines go through basic training, and they are trained in units separate from their male counterparts. All recruits from east of the Mississippi River train at the installation near Beaufort, South Carolina.

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