A former Parris Island training battalion commander was arraigned Wednesday ahead of his court-martial for charges stemming from events that culminated in the death of a recruit last year.
No trial date has been set for Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, who did not enter a plea at Wednesday’s hearing, said Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Training and Education Command.
Kissoon was fired as commander of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion on March 31, 2016. He was subsequently charged with failure to obey a lawful general order, making a false official statement and conduct unbecoming an officer.
During his tenure at Parris Island, recruit Raheel Siddiqui jumped to his death on March 18, 2016. Siddiqui was assigned to the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion at the time. His senior drill instructor was Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who was not supposed to be working directly with recruits.
Felix, who also faces a court-martial, was under investigation at the time for allegedly ordering another Muslim recruit to sit in a commercial dryer and then turning it on several times while insulting the recruit’s religion. Felix was assigned another job afterward.
At his Article 32 hearing in June, prosecutors argued that Kissoon is responsible for Felix becoming a senior drill instructor again despite verbal and written orders from the commander of Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment that Felix not work directly with recruits until the dryer investigation had been completed.
Although it is unclear from the Article 32 hearing’s testimony exactly how Felix returned to his post, witnesses claimed that Kissoon repeatedly asked the regiment about the status of the dryer investigation. His battalion was missing a senior staff noncommissioned officer at the time.
Kissoon is the highest ranking Marine and the only officer to be referred to a court-martial in connection with three investigations into allegations of hazing and abuse at Parris Island. Two investigations were ongoing at the time of Siddiqui’s death.
On the day a recruit died during training at Parris Island last year, the drill instructor accused of slapping the recruit moments prior to his death was not supposed to be working with recruits at all.
On the day Siddiqui died, he handed his drill instructors a note saying he had lost his voice because his throat was sore and he was coughing up blood. Because Siddiqui could not report or give the greeting of the day, a drill instructor ordered him to run to one end of the squad bay and back until he collapsed.
While Siddiqui was on the floor, Felix allegedly slapped him in the face. Siddiqui got up, ran to a nearby stairwell and jumped over the railing.
Parris Island commanders were caught by surprise after Siddiqui’s death when they realized Felix was not supposed to be training recruits, witnesses said at the June Article 32 hearing.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix is accused of slapping the recruit moments before he jumped to his death.
Col. Paul Cucinotta, commander of the Recruit Training Regiment at the Time, testified that he confronted Kissoon about why Felix was in Siddiqui’s platoon.
“Why didn’t we talk about this?” Cucinotta asked him.
“Had we talked about it,” Kissoon replied, “I would have tried to convince you to let him go back,” Cucinotta’s recalled.