Three Parris Island Marine sergeants on Friday were scheduled for trial here in the coming months to face charges involving violating orders, making false statements and, in two cases, recruit hazing.
Hazing at the camp became a focus of camp commanders and even the White House after the death last March of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui of Michigan. He fell 40 feet to his death barely two weeks into his training. As McClatchy’s Island Packet reported in July, the fallout from Siddiqui’s death has led to a series of investigations that “have revealed a culture permissive of hazing and recruit abuse.”
The Marines say these three men face allegations that have nothing to do with Siddiqui or his death. Court dates were scheduled for March 31 to April 5 for Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez, April 10-14 for Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus and April 19-25 for Sgt. Riley R. Gress.
The Marines waived the reading of their charges in court, meaning the allegations remain general. All three are charged with violating a lawful general order and making a false official statement. Bacchus is also charged with maltreatment, and Gress is charged with cruelty and maltreatment, according to an official Marine statement.
Beyond that, the Friday arraignments revealed little. They took place in a building famous among Marines as being in the introduction to the 1990s sitcom “Major Dad.”
The Marines entered the courtroom one at a time, each hearing lasting less than 15 minutes. They arrived in the same freshly pressed khaki shirts worn by the prosecuting and defense attorneys.
Before the judge, Lt. Col. Christopher Greer, asked for a plea, he had their defenders read the lists of medals represented on their uniforms, which included those for service in Afghanistan and the global war on terror. All three reserved for later dates their rights to choose the manner of their trials and to decide how to plead.
The Marines are being prosecuted in what is called a “special court-martial,” which is the military’s midrange form of punishment. The maximum punishments are 12 months confinement, two-thirds of their pay for 12 months and “a bad conduct discharge and reduction to E-1.”