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Parris Island drill instructor found not guilty in first hazing scandal court-martial

The first Parris Island drill instructors to face a court-martial in connection with the recruit hazing scandal that exploded last year has been cleared of all charges, an official confirmed.

Sgt. Riley R. Gress was one of four drill instructors accused of making recruits do physical training in a dusty, abandoned building at Parris Island that was nicknamed "The Dungeon." Military.com first reported on Thursday that Gress had been acquitted on charges of maltreatment, failure to obey a lawful order and making a false official statement.

The other drill instructors who are expected to face courts martial in connection with the case are Staff Sgt. Antonio Burke, Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus and Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez.

Parris Island has been caught up in a hurricane of hazing allegations since an investigation into the March 18, 2016 death of recruit Raheel Siddiqui found drill instructors in the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion often slapped and choked recruits.

Up to 20 personnel at Parris Island could face disciplinary or administrative action related to allegations of hazing. Since 2014, a total of 12 of 24 investigations into allegations of hazing at Parris Island have been substantiated. 

Days before he died, Siddiqui threatened to kill himself and claimed he was being beaten by his drill instructors, an investigation into his death found.

Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix is accused of slapping Siddiqui right before Siddiqui ran to a nearby stairwell, vaulted over the railing and fell to his death. At the time, Felix previously had been accused of ordering another Muslim recruit to sit in a commercial dryer and turning it on several times while insulting the recruit's religion.

Felix faces a general court-martial slated for August at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is charged with cruelty and maltreatment, drunk and disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful general order and obstruction of justice.

Sgt. Michael Eldridge also faces a court-martial in connection with the dryer incident, but none of the charges against him stem from Siddiqui's death. He is accused of cruelty and maltreatment, being drunk and disorderly, making a false official statement and failure to obey a lawful general.

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