An enlisted Marine has been sentenced to 10 days behind bars for sharing explicit photos of female troops through a private Facebook group, Marine Corps officials announced Monday.
The Marine, the first to be charged in connection with a wide-ranging scandal that spurred congressional inquiry and prompted the Corps to launch a new investigative task force, faced charges related to the non-consensual sharing of intimate photos through Marines United, a group that circulated a drive of such images.
He pleaded guilty at summary court-martial June 29, according to a Marine Corps news release, and was sentenced to 10 days' confinement, demotion by three ranks, and forfeiture of two-thirds of his pay for one month. The Corps is also moving forward with efforts to administratively separate him from the service.
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The Marine was not identified or described by rank or unit.
Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Brian Block told Military.com that a summary court-martial is considered an administrative proceeding, unlike general and special courts-martial, and that the Marine was therefore protected from identification through the Privacy Act of 1974. Defendants before summary courts-martial typically face sentences far less severe than those considered in general and special court-martial hearings, and appear before a judge only, rather than a military jury.
It's possible this will be the only court case to result from the Marines United scandal, which made headlines all over the country in March when reporter Thomas Brennan published an investigative report on the group's activities. While Marine Corps officials said the group had 30,000 members before it was internally shut down, far fewer individuals have been found to have viewed or shared the photo drive.
To date, Block said in Monday's release, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has identified 89 individuals who may have participated in explicit photo-sharing and online misconduct, though not all cases are linked to the Marines United page.
Of these persons of interest, 67 are active-duty or reserve Marines, while 22 are civilians. While NCIS continues to investigate five of the cases involving Marines, the other 62 have already been passed to relevant Marine Corps commands for punitive or legal action.
In addition to the one summary court-martial, there have been two administrative separations, seven non-judicial punishments, and 22 other adverse administrative actions, according to the release.
"These cases span beyond the Marines United Facebook page and include a spectrum of behavior," Block said in the release. "While many cases involve photos, clothed or explicit, some involve verbal remarks without images."
The task force organized by the Corps to address online misconduct and root out the cultural issues behind Marines' misogynistic behavior online remains active.
Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps and current head of the task force, said in a statement that the service has for the first time formalized how it handles reports of misconduct online. These reports now go through NCIS to review for criminal activity, and on to relevant Marine Corps commands for appropriate punishment if no criminal activity is found.
All reports are also now brought to the attention of Marine Corps Headquarters.
"I think it's important to recognize that our understanding of the issue has evolved over time," Walters said in the statement. "How we handle cases today is much different and more effective as a result of what occurred with Marines United. Moving forward, we are planning to establish a permanent structure that can address all of the factors that contribute to the negative subculture that has allowed this behavior to exist."