QUANTICO, Va. -- Courts-martial for three Marine drill instructors from Parris Island convened Friday and trials for allegations of misconduct linked to the ongoing hazing and abuse scandal will begin in March.
The three Marines were arraigned Friday morning in quick succession during a hearing at Marine Corps Base Quantico. All three declined to enter pleas of ‘guilty’ or ‘not-guilty.'
Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus is charged with maltreatment, violation of a lawful order and making a false official statement.
Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez is charged with failure to obey a lawful general order and making a false official statement;
Sgt. Riley R. Gress is charged with maltreatment, failure to obey a lawful order and making a false official statement.
If convicted, the three Marines each could face a maximum punishment of confinement up to one year in the brig, forfeiture of up to two-thirds pay for 12 months, a bad conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.
Three separate dates were set for back-to-back trials, which will run from March 31 to April 25, 2017.
The three Marines are still on administrative duty at Parris Island, but are not working in any supervisory capacity, said Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Training and Education Command.
The arraignments come a day after an Article 32 hearing in which their senior drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Antonio Burke, was accused of cruelty and maltreatment, failure to obey a lawful general order and making a false official statement.
The Article 32 hearing will help his commander determine whether Burke should face a general court-martial, which allows for punishments in excess of one-year confinement.
At the day-long hearing -- the military’s equivalent of a civilian court’s grand jury proceeding -- four recruits testified that Burke had ordered them to conduct "illegal" physical training in a derelict building as punishment; commandeered one recruit’s Facebook account and mobile phone to harass the recruit’s sister; had the recruits do his homework; and asked the recruits to cover for him when he failed to provide medical care to a recruit who repeatedly passed out and later was diagnosed with a heart condition and medically discharged.
The charges are the result of a command investigation into abuse and mistreatment of recruits at the East Coast training depot, prompted by national outrage after three major incidents rocked the Marine Corps in 2016 alone.
On March 18, Raheel Siddiqui, a Muslim Marine recruit, jumped 40 feet down a stairwell to his death after he was hazed and struck by his drill instructor.
Following Siddiqui’s death, the Corps launched two investigations into drill instructor misconduct at Parris Island. A third investigation into hazing allegations in 2015 was ongoing at the time of Siddiqui’s death, but ultimately folded into the other two.
Burke’s Article 32 hearing and the arraignments of his three subordinates are not connected with Siddiqui’s death.