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Marine Corps sergeant major indicted on hate crime charges

July 14, 2017
A Marine Corps sergeant major was indicted on hate crime and assault charges following an alleged attack on a server at an Iraqi restaurant.

Sgt. Maj. Damien Rodriguez is accused of attacking the staff at DarSalam restaurant in Portland, Oregon, in April.

At the time of the alleged assault, Rodriguez was serving as the battalion sergeant major for 1st Battalion, 11th Marines at Camp Pendleton, 1st Lt. Paul Gainey, a Marine spokesman, told Marine Corps Times.

Rodriguez was caught  on video at the restaurant shouting racial slurs at the staff of the Iraqi restaurant. At one point, Rodriguez can be seen in the video swinging a chair, allegedly striking one of the employees.

He was indicted in early July on one count of assault in the second degree, one count of disorderly conduct in the second degree and two counts of intimidation in the second degree, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Chris Ramras told Marine Corps Times. Ramras noted that the intimidation charge is commonly referred to as a hate crime.

If convicted, Rodriguez could face more than 10 years in prison. 

Immediately following the incident, the 1st Marine Division removed Rodriguez from his position as the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines battalion sergeant major.

"The 1st Marine Division will continue to assist the Portland District Attorney with this matter," Gainey said. "The Marine Corps does not tolerate disorderly conduct or bad behavior from its Marines or senior leaders and expects all Marines to uphold the highest of principles and ethical behavior, both on and off duty." 

The owner of the Portland restaurant, Ghaith Sahib, survived a car bomb attack in Baghdad in 2005, according to

Rodriguez was previously charged with harassment and disorderly conduct, but the District Attorney’s Office dropped misdemeanor charges and decided to pursue felony charges, according to Ramras. His court date is set for September.

Previously, Rodriguez served with 2nd Battalion 4th Marines where he deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004, according to Marine Corps records. 

Rodriguez deployed to Iraq for a second time in 2006 to Anbar province while serving with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Additionally, Rodriguez deployed twice to Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2010 and 2012 while serving with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, records show.

His personal awards include a Bronze Star Medal with combat ‘V’ for valor, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold star in lieu of second award. 

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