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Parris Island Marine could face highest-level court-martial in hazing, abuse case

By WADE LIVINGSTON | The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 15, 2016

An unnamed staff sergeant at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island charged with “cruelty and maltreatment” and making false statements could be tried in the highest military court.

That person, whose name the Corps is withholding because of “legal requirements,” currently faces an Article 32 hearing stemming from multiple investigations that uncovered hazing and recruit abuse within the depot’s 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

The Article 32 hearing is required before a case can proceed to a general court-martial, according to Corps spokesperson Capt. Joshua Pena — and that type of court-martial is “the most serious level of military courts,” according the Corps.

For now, Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commander of Training and Education Command, awaits the recommendations of that hearing before deciding how to proceed.

In addition to the unnamed staff sergeant, the Corps released Tuesday the names of three individuals who will face special courts-martial, an “intermediate court level,” according to the Corps. Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus, Sgt. Riley R. Gress and Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez have been charged with violating several articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Those Marines have served as drill instructors in the past and currently work on Parris Island, Pena said, but they are not currently supervising recruits.

None of the allegations are linked to the specific investigation of former recruit Raheel Siddiqui’s death, according to the Corps.

Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Muslim American of Pakistani descent from Taylor, Mich. assigned to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, died March 18 after falling nearly 40 feet from the third deck of his barracks. He was reportedly called a “terrorist” during his 11-day stint on Parris Island, and was allegedly slapped in the face moments before his death. The Corps deemed his death was a suicide, but his family disputes that. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service continues to look into the matter.

In the wake of his death, three Corps investigations — one into his death, a “red dot” inquiry prompted by the White House and an older investigation that began in 2015 — were linked and uncovered widespread recruit abuse, hazing and leadership failings.

In September, the Corps announced that up to 20 drill instructors and leadership personnel could face charges. The first of those charges were detailed in Tuesday’s announcement.

Bacchus and Gress have both deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the Corps. They served as drill instructors in 3rd Battalion, Company K, Platoon 3009 in January, according to a Parris Island graduation announcement. Bacchus also served as a drill instructor in 3rd Battalion platoons in 2014 and 2015.

Lucena-Martinez was the drill instructor for Company K, Platoon 3012 in January. In 2010 he deployed to Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response after an earthquake rocked that country.

The unnamed staff sergeant’s current billet and past service history are not being released at this time, according to Pena.

The Article 32 hearing will provide Lukeman with recommendations on how to proceed with that individual’s case. Recommendations could include:

  • dismissal, alteration or addition of charges
  • handling the case with a lower-level administrative action
  • referring the case to a lower-level court-martial
  • sending the case to a general court-martial — the highest-level court

Still, Lukeman has the final say on whether the case goes before a general court-martial.

“The convening authority (Lukeman) has the final decision,” Pena said. “He can choose to accept or reject the recommendations.”

The “legal process is working well,” Pena said, adding that the Corps is “following the guidelines closely.”

______

Marines charged in hazing and abuse scandal

  • Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus, Sgt. Riley R. Gress and Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez have been charged with violating several articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
  • Bacchus: Violation of a lawful general order; maltreatment; false official statement
  • Gress: Failure to obey a lawful general order; cruelty and maltreatment; false official statement
  • Lucena-Martinez: Failure to obey a lawful general order; false official statement

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©2016 The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.)

Visit The Island Packet (Hilton Head, S.C.) at www.islandpacket.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island is shown in this undated photo.
AARON BOLSER/U.S. MARINE CORPS

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