A military jury convicted a former Marine Corps instructor of physically abusing three Muslim-American volunteers, often times referring to them as “terrorists.”
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix was accused of being the ring leader of a group of abusive drill instructors at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island in more than three dozen criminal counts following the 2016 suicide of one his Muslim American recruits, Raheel Siddiqui, CBS News reported.
An eight-man jury — made up of five sergeants and three officers — ruled the 34-year-old Iraq Veteran was guilty of hazing and maltreatment of his recruits at the South Carolina boot camp. He was additionally charged with drunk and disorderly conduct and making false official statements.
Felix now faces time in military prison, fines and a dishonorable discharge as well as a separate $ 100 million wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Marine Corps by Siddiqui’s family.
The 20-year-old Pakistani-American from Taylor, Michigan leapt 40 feet to his death from a stairwell after Felix repeatedly berated him and slapped him across the face.
“He wasn’t making Marines. He was breaking Marines,” prosecutor Lt. Col. John Norman argued. He continued on to call the ex-instructor a “bully” who specifically “picked out three Muslim recruits for special abuse because of their faith.”
In 2015 and 2016, Felix ridiculed Siddiqui and two other Muslim-American recruits as “terrorists,” at one point ordering Lance Cpl. Ameer Bourmeche to simulate chopping off a fellow Marine’s head while reciting the words “God is Great” in Arabic, Norman said.
Raheel Siddiqui died in an apparent suicide during Marine Corps training on March 18, 2016.
During the seven-day trial, Bourmeche recounted being forced into an industrial clothes dryer by his drill instructor. Felix turned on the appliance, Bourmeche inside, and ordered him to renounce his Islamic faith.
The recruit twice declined, but on the third time conceded out of fear for his life, he said.
Others accused Felix of equally disturbing hazing rituals, which included forcing recruits to choke each other and ordering them to drink chocolate milk in excess and then training them to the point of vomiting.
Felix’s attorney argued against the charges, claiming the prosecution offered witnesses who provided contradictory and exaggerated accounts.
Felix, who was charged in a hazing investigation along with five other drill instructors and the training battalion’s commanding officer, was permanently removed from his position when the probe began, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said. Eleven others other faced lesser, administrative discipline in light of the hazing scandal.