Why the court-martial of a former Parris Island drill instructor was rescheduled
By WADE LIVINGSTON | The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) | Published: August 4, 2017
HILTON HEAD, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — The military trial for a former Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island drill instructor linked to the death of a recruit has been rescheduled, according to officials.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix’s general court-martial was originally scheduled to begin as early as next week; now, it won’t start until the end of October because a judge granted a continuance, according to Marine Corps Training and Education Command, the division that’s handling the proceedings.
The new trial dates: Oct. 30 through Nov. 10.
“The case was continued due to the large number of witnesses and necessary time required to adequately prepare for trial,” Navy Lt. Clay Bridges wrote Friday morning in an email to The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. Bridges, assistant senior defense counsel for Defense Service Office’s southeast region, is one of Felix’s attorneys.
The continuance was granted sometime in the past couple of weeks, according to TECOM.
Felix was arraigned April 26 and faces charges ranging from cruelty and maltreatment to obstruction of justice. He will be tried by general court-martial — the highest-level military court — at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
A Marine Corps investigation linked Felix to the death of Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Muslim-American recruit of Pakistani descent who died after a three-story fall at the depot in March 2016.
Shortly before the fall, according to that investigation, Felix allegedly made a reportedly ill Siddiqui perform a series of punitive sprints in the barracks. Siddiqui fell to the floor during the sprints. He then allegedly slapped Siddiqui, who was nonresponsive, in the face. Moments later, Siddiqui ran out the back of the barracks and reportedly jumped from the third-floor stairwell.
The Marine Corps stands by a report that concluded Siddiqui’s death a suicide. The Siddiqui family, of Taylor, Mich., and their attorney, Shiraz Khan, dispute that conclusion.
Felix reportedly called Siddiqui a “terrorist” at some point during the 11 days the recruit spent on the island. And he should not have been supervising trainees at the time, the Corps said, since he was under investigation for his alleged involvement in a separate incident with a different Muslim recruit, who was ordered into a commercial clothes dryer and questioned about his faith and loyalty.
Sgt. Michael K. Eldridge, another former Parris Island drill instructor, has also been linked to the dryer incident.
Eldridge is charged with violations of military law ranging from drunk and disorderly to cruelty and maltreatment, and his general court-martial is on schedule for Sept. 25 to Oct. 6 at Camp Lejeune.