A Marine Corps drill instructor who was charged with harassing and assaulting dozens of young recruits — directing particular rage at Muslim enlistees — has been convicted by an eight-member military jury. He faces years of confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
The jury of five sergeants and three officers at Camp Lejuene, N.C., heard evidence that Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran and decorated Marine, punched, kicked and choked recruits in his charge.
Sentencing for Felix, who pleaded not guilty but did not testify in his defense, is scheduled for Friday.
The Associated Press writes: “Felix was accused in more than three dozen criminal counts of being a central figure in an abusive group of drill instructors at Parris Island that came to light after the March 2016 suicide of one of the three Muslim-American recruits Felix targeted.”
The prosecution said that Felix — sometimes drunk when he carried out the abuse — routinely called Muslim recruits “terrorist” and on two occasions placed them into an industrial dryer as part of a hazing ritual. “Hey, ISIS, get in the dryer,” Felix told one of the recruits, according to prosecutors.
Military.com reports that Felix forced one Muslim recruit “to conduct a mock beheading of a platoon mate while shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar.’”
Raheel Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American recruit abused by Felix, leapt to his death from the third floor of a Parris Island squad bay after one particularly brutal episode, according to military investigators.
Among other charges, Felix is said to have forced recruits to choke each other [and] ordered them to drink chocolate milk until they vomited.”
“You will learn the accused is drunk on power,” prosecutor Capt. Corey Weilert told jury at the North Carolina Marine Corps base.
As NPR’s Camila Domonoske reported last year: “After a Marine Corps report found a pattern of abuse at the Parris Island training facility in South Carolina, 20 officers and enlisted leaders [faced] punishment, including potential criminal charges or court-martial.”
An investigation into the allegations of abuse by Felix led to charges against the training battalion’s commanding officer and five other drill instructors for similar but less severe abusive practices. Eleven others faced administrative discipline, the AP says.