The Marine Corps said it is no longer pursuing courts-martial for Marines charged in connection to an alleged human smuggling ring and arrested at a July 25 battalion formation.

A military judge said leaders of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, violated the rights of the accused as unlawful command influence, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday.

The Marine Corps will now pursue administrative punishment for the Marines arrested at the formation, an action that is not affected by the court ruling of unlawful command influence, Marine spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh told Marine Corps Times in a Tuesday evening phone call.

Edinburgh said most of the ten Marines arrested will be administratively separated, but did not give an exact number.


Unlawful military command influence occurs when a person with command authority influences or appears to influence the outcome of a trial.

The ruling came after the lawyers for Lance Cpl. Jose Garcia filed a motion claiming the public arrest violated their client’s rights.

Lawyers for the other nine Marines arrested at the formation ― including Cpl. Trenton Elliot who had his first hearing in mid-November ― filed similar motions.

They called for the cases to be thrown out after a video of the formation was provided to them in discovery and evidence arose that Lt. Col. Eric Olson, the battalion commanding officer, allegedly called the accused Marines a “cancer” on the battalion instead of reaffirming that they were innocent until proven guilty.

Twenty-three Marines with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, were arrested in July for various alleged offenses, Edinburgh said in a Tuesday press release. Some of the arrests were associated with the alleged human smuggling case, others were on unrelated charges.

Of the 23 Marines arrested, six have pleaded guilty to charges at their courts-martial, the press release said.

Thirteen have “submitted and have approved pre-trial agreements requesting separation in lieu of courts-martial or waiving administrative separation boards." The final four Marines are in the process of being adjudicated, the press release stated.

The investigation into the alleged smuggling ring began when Border Patrol agents arrested two Marines, Lance Cpl. Byron Darnell Law II and Lance Cpl. David Javier Salazar-Quintero, near the U.S.-Mexico border July 3.

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