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Marine Drill Instructor Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Abusing Recruits

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

A Marine Corps drill instructor who was convicted of harassing and assaulting dozens of young recruits — directing particular rage at Muslim enlistees — has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix also will forfeit all pay, his rank will be reduced to private, and he will be dishonorably discharged, The Associated Press reports.

The jury of five sergeants and three officers at Camp Lejeune, N.C., heard evidence that Felix, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran and decorated Marine, punched, kicked and choked recruits in his charge, including one who killed himself.

The Washington Post reports prosecutors had requested a seven-year term and that it was not immediately clear why the jury had exceeded that request.

Felix pleaded not guilty but did not testify in his defense.

The Associated Press writes: "Felix was accused in more than three dozen criminal counts of being a central figure in an abusive group of drill instructors at Parris Island that came to light after the March 2016 suicide of one of the three Muslim-American recruits Felix targeted."

The prosecution said that Felix — sometimes drunk when he carried out the abuse — routinely called Muslim recruits "terrorist" and on two occasions placed them into an industrial dryer as part of a hazing ritual. "Hey, ISIS, get in the dryer," Felix told one of the recruits, according to prosecutors.

Military.com reports that Felix forced one Muslim recruit "to conduct a mock beheading of a platoon mate while shouting, 'Allahu Akbar.' "

Raheel Siddiqui, a Pakistani-American recruit abused by Felix, leapt to his death from the third floor of a Parris Island squad bay after one particularly brutal episode, according to military investigators.

Among other charges, Felix is said to have forced recruits to choke each other [and] ordered them to drink chocolate milk until they vomited."

"You will learn the accused is drunk on power," prosecutor Capt. Corey Weilert had told jury at the North Carolina Marine Corps base.

As NPR's Camila Domonoske reported last year: "After a Marine Corps report found a pattern of abuse at the Parris Island training facility in South Carolina, 20 officers and enlisted leaders [faced] punishment, including potential criminal charges or court-martial."

An investigation into the allegations of abuse by Felix led to charges against the training battalion's commanding officer and five other drill instructors for similar but less severe abusive practices. Eleven others faced administrative discipline, the AP says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.