Marine drill instructor gets 10 years for abusing recruits
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Marine Corps drill instructor was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for choking, punching or otherwise tormenting recruits, especially three Muslims – one of whom ultimately killed himself by leaping down a stairwell.
A military jury handed out the punishment to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix a day after convicting him of abusing more than a dozen trainees at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Among other things, he taunted the Muslims as "terrorists" or "ISIS" and ordered two of them to climb into an industrial clothes dryer, spinning one of them around in the scorching machine until he renounced his faith, the jury decided.
Felix, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran, was also ordered to forfeit all pay, demoted to private and given a dishonorable discharge.
Felix was a central figure in what was found to be a group of abusive drill instructors at Parris Island. After the March 2016 suicide at the base, a hazing investigation led to charges against Felix, five other drill instructors and the training battalion's commanding officer. Eleven others faced lesser discipline.
Abusive drill instructors have long been stock characters in books and movies like "Full Metal Jacket." But that 1987 film was set during the Vietnam War, and the Felix trial shows that since then the Marines have drawn clearer lines between what instructors can and cannot do, said Michael Hanzel, a former Navy attorney who attended the proceedings at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"This generation now, there's things that I think that we're much more focused on. In particular, in this trial, it's calling people names based on their religion and targeting people based on their religion," said Hanzel, now a private attorney specializing in military law. "I don't think anyone would say that was acceptable ever, but it probably was not prosecuted in the past the way it would be now."
The charges against Felix included commanding recruits to choke each other; ordering them to drink chocolate milk and then training them until they vomited; and punching recruits in the face or kicking them to the ground.