Three Marines and former drill instructors will stand trial on charges of hazing and mistreating recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina, and a fourth may also face charges, Marine officials announced Tuesday.
Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez and Sgt. Riley Gress face charges of violation of a lawful general order and false official statement. Bacchus and Gress were also charged with cruelty and maltreatment. They all will receive special courts-martial, an intermediate-level trial for those facing sentences of 12 months' confinement or less.
Another staff sergeant, who has not been named, faces an Article 32 investigative hearing for alleged false official statement, cruelty and maltreatment, and failure to obey a lawful order. The result of that hearing will determine whether he will face charges. The news was first reported Tuesday by Marine Corps Times.
The charges for the three Marines are the result of a year-long probe revealing a pattern of hazing and abuse at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that ultimately was found to have contributed to the March suicide death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said in a release Tuesday that the charges and allegations against the four Marines were not associated with Siddiqui's death, however. This may indicate that more charges have yet to be finalized; in all, 20 Marine drill instructors and officers with oversight of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion were identified for possible legal and administrative action in light of the hazing.
The investigation into Siddiqui's death led to more investigations, revealing, among other things, that a drill instructor had hazed another Muslim recruit by repeatedly throwing him into an industrial dryer and turning it on; and that drill instructors had attempted to cover up recruits' hazing-related cases of muscle breakdown, or rhabdomyolysis, which forced them to drop out of training.
Service records for the three Marines being charged show they were all experienced and decorated troops.
Bacchus, a fixed-wing aircraft mechanic by trade, had previously deployed to Afghanistan and had earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
Lucena-Martinez, a food service specialist, had deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in the relief effort for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He had also received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
Gress, a motor vehicle operator, deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, and also had been awarded a NAM and two Good Conduct Medals, according to his records.
"From the beginning, we have taken these allegations of misconduct very seriously," Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general of Training and Education Command, said in a statement.
"As proceedings move forward, we will continue to maintain the integrity of the legal process while remaining transparent," Lukeman added. "The Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island and San Diego transform the best of our nation's young men and women into U.S. Marines. The safety of our recruits and the integrity of the Marine Corps recruit training program remain our priority."
To date, no hearings or arraignments for the Marines have been scheduled, officials said.