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Staff sergeant pleads guilty in hazing case

Jul. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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A South Carolina-based staff noncommissioned officer charged with hazing pleaded guilty to assault and violating orders during a summary court-martial last week.

Staff Sgt. Justin Samford, an air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., was found guilty in accordance with his pleas on two charges of assault and two charges of an orders violation, said Capt. Jordan Cochran, a Marine spokesman for the air station.

“This resulted in 45 days restriction and forfeiture of two-thirds of his salary for one month,” Cochran said.

Samford was charged on May 20 with violating orders, maltreatment, falsifying an official statement and assault, Cochran said. He is one of two SNCOs to face charges in connection with allegations of hazing. Gunnery Sgt. James McArthur, an air traffic controller in the same unit, faces charges related to violating the service’s order on hazing, maltreatment and obstructing justice, Cochran said.

Samford did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Marine Corps Times also submitted several requests to Beaufort public affairs officers for further information about the hazing allegations against the two Marines. Also requested was the contact information for Samford’s defense counsel. Beaufort public affairs has not provided responses to these requests.

The charges stem from an investigation launched Dec. 12 when a Marine in their chain of command alleged mistreatment, according to a Marine Corps news release. Col. Brian Murtha, the air station’s commanding officer, initiated the investigation after the complaint arose. It was completed by the Criminal Investigative Division.

Cochran told Marine Corps Times in June that all leaders aboard the air station are entrusted with ensuring every Marine is treated with dignity, care and respect.

“Every incident of hazing will be investigated with appropriate disciplinary action initiated against the perpetrators and those in the chain of command who condone such practices by inaction or neglecting to investigate suspected incidents,” Cochran said. “Hazing will not be tolerated in any form in our Marine Corps.”

McArthur’s court-martial is scheduled for Sept. 3-6, Cochran said.

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