Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix and his spouse are escorted into court docket at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Nov. 6. Sgt. Felix is accused of abusing Muslim recruits. (Rory Laverty)
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A navy jury on Thursday convicted a former Marine drill teacher accused of subjecting Muslim recruits to verbal and bodily abuse.
After a seven-day trial and 12 hours of deliberation, the eight-member jury discovered Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, 34, responsible of maltreatment in reference to allegations he focused three Muslim males on the Marines’ storied boot camp in Parris Island, S.C.
One of these recruits, Raheel Siddiqui, died when he fell 40 toes onto a concrete stairwell. Prosecutors mentioned Felix pressured Siddiqui to run forwards and backwards within the recruits’ squad bay and slapped him within the face simply earlier than he sprinted from the room and jumped to his dying. Two different Muslim recruits accused him of placing them in an industrial garments dryer and, in a single occasion, turning it on.
Raheel Siddiqui, 20, died on the Marine recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., whereas in preliminary coaching. (Photo courtesy the Siddiqui household)
In all, Felix was convicted of three counts of maltreatment, eight of 9 counts of violating basic orders, drunk and disorderly conduct, and making false statements. He was acquitted of obstruction of justice.
Sentencing is scheduled for Friday. If Felix receives greater than a 12 months in jail or is given an other-than-honorable discharge from the navy, his conviction will likely be robotically appealed.
The jury’s verdict marks the end result of two years of investigations and courts-martial centered on recruit abuse at Parris Island courting to 2015.
Felix, mentioned Lt. Col. John Norman, the prosecutor, “picked out Muslim recruits for special abuse because of their Muslim faith. He degraded their religion and put them in industrial appliances.”
Felix is a married father of 4. He has served within the Marines since 2002.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has investigated 20 Marine drill instructors, officers and workers members amid allegations of hazing, badault and discriminating towards Muslim recruits courting to 2015. Thirteen Marines have already got confronted some type of self-discipline. Two others await their destiny: Felix’s fellow drill teacher Sgt. Michael Eldridge and their former supervisor, Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon.
Felix was “drunk on power, and sometimes Fireball whiskey,” Norman advised the jury throughout his closing statements. “He wasn’t making Marines — he was breaking Marines.”
The first two Muslim recruits focused by Felix have been Ameer Bourmeche and Rekan Hawez. Both testified throughout his court-martial that Felix and Eldridge put them into an industrial garments dryer.
Numerous witnesses advised the court docket they heard Felix name the Muslim recruits “terrorist” and “ISIS,” one other identify for the Islamic State. A recruit from Siddiqui’s platoon, Lance Cpl. Shane McDevitt, advised the court docket that Felix known as Siddiqui a terrorist at the very least 10 instances.
Felix’s lawyer, Navy Lt. Cdr. Daniel Bridges, mentioned that his consumer didn’t know the three recruits have been Muslim and that when he slapped Siddiqui, he was making an attempt to provide the struggling recruit medical care. Siddiqui complained of respiratory bother within the moments earlier than his dying.
[Following a Marine recruit’s death, a culture of hazing is exposed on a storied base]
Siddiqui’s household has filed a $100 million wrongful dying lawsuit towards the Marine Corps and the U.S. authorities, disputing the Marines’ and a South Carolina health worker’s ruling of suicide. The household says Siddiqui was pushed to his dying by his drill instructors.
Felix’s protection workforce introduced solely two witnesses throughout the trial: a mechanical engineer specializing in garments dryers and a forensic pathologist. Dozens of witnesses, together with different drill instructors who labored with Felix and at the very least 20 former recruits who educated underneath him, supplied testimony for the prosecution.
A central difficulty for the jury was figuring out the purpose at which a drill teacher’s conduct crosses the road from self-discipline to abuse. The Marines articulate that boundary in a rules handbook that enables drill instructors to make sure types of bodily contact with recruits however outlaws others, similar to punching, kicking and slapping.
Another key part of the trial was Eldridge’s testimony. Eldridge, who was a celebration to among the abuse, accepted an immunity deal that compelled him to testify towards his former colleague. He will plead no contest and spend 60 days in a navy jail, Bridges mentioned.
Bridges argued that Eldridge was accountable for placing one recruit in a garments dryer and turning it on. But the sergeant “jumped on that government gravy train” to avoid wasting himself at Felix’s expense, Bridges mentioned.
In his rebuttal, Norman defined why the prosecution relied on Eldridge’s testimony.
“It takes criminals to catch criminals,” he mentioned. “The reason Sergeant Eldridge knew so much about what [Felix] did was because he was standing right there with him.”