A former drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in Beaufort County was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a jury Friday after his conviction a day earlier for abusing three former recruits under his command, including one who later committed suicide.
The Hilton Head Island Packet reports an eight-member panel returned the verdict against Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix after nearly 12 hours of deliberation. Felix was convicted of maltreatment and slapping recruit Raheel Siddiqui in the face. NCIS investigators said Siddiqui collapsed during one particularly intense March 2016 incident. The formal Marines report (which did not identify Felix or Siddiqui by name) said the drill instructor yelled at him and even slapped him at one point before the recruit suddenly got to his feet and ran down the squad bay to the stairwell outside, before jumping over the railing.
The jury of six officers and six enlisted found Felix guilty of hitting, choking or kicking around a dozen recruits; of being drunk and disorderly and of making false statements to investigators. The jury did not find him guilty on an obstruction of justice charge or other unauthorized “incentive training” beyond the three recruits.
The jury Thursday also found Felix ordered two Muslim traines to get inside industrial clothes dryers in July 2015. Military prosecutors said Felix turned on the dryer while one was inside and forced him to recant his faith after turning it off again.
Felix’s sentence will need to be approved by Marine Corps Training and Education Command’s commander. He will also be dishonorably discharged.
Felix had served with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. The Island Packet reports seven Marines have been referred to courts-martial in response to a massive investigation by the Corps after Siddiqui’s suicide. Former battalion commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon is scheduled for March 2018. He is accused of not suspending Felix during the investigation.
At the time, investigators said the drill instructor had been forcing Siddiqui to run sprints in the squadbay barracks because he had not properly sounded off when requesting permission for a medical visit. Witnesses said Siddiqui collapsed during the sprints and Felix yelled at him to get back up, even slapping him at one point. Drill instructors are not allowed to strike recruits. Siddiqui suddenly jumped to his feet and ran to the building’s stairwell, where he jumped to his death.
Siddiqui was of Pakistani descent, while the other two recruits (who South Carolina Radio Network is not identifying since they are considered victims in the case) are also of Middle East descent.