The two Marine Raiders who were found guilty of drinking alcohol while deployed to Iraq but not guilty of more serious charges in connection with the 2019 death of a Green Beret veteran will likely retire with honorable discharges, their lawyer said.

Gunnery Sgts. Josh Negron and Danny Draher, Marine Raiders with Marine Forces Special Operations Command, went before an administrative separation board Aug. 1 that was tasked with deciding at what rank and pay grade they would leave the Corps, according to defense attorney Phillip Stackhouse.

The board recommended that they retire with honorable discharges at their current ranks, Stackhouse said Friday. A higher-up in the Marine Corps could still decide after an administrative back-and-forth to reject the recommendation to let the men leave as gunnery sergeants, Stackhouse said.

In February, a jury of Marines acquitted Draher and Negron of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and dereliction in the performance of duties but convicted them of violation of a lawful order, for drinking while on a deployment to Irbil, Iraq.

They had been accused of causing the death of military contractor and retired Army Master Sgt. Rick Rodriguez by knocking him to the ground in a fight outside of a bar and by leaving him overnight with special operations corpsman Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet instead of rushing him to a hospital.

Gilmet and the two Raiders — sometimes collectively known as “the MARSOC 3″ — maintained that Negron had punched Rodriguez to defend Draher from the alcohol-fueled aggression of the Army veteran and that Gilmet had done his best to care for Rodriguez.

The jury gave Negron and Draher no punishment for the sole conviction.

Advocates for the two Raiders have complained the men will nevertheless be marked as felons for what they see as a small infraction, while other Marines in their unit faced lesser consequences for drinking that night.

Gilmet, for his part, won’t even have that felony conviction: On Aug. 3 the military’s highest appellate court dismissed the charges against the chief petty officer on the grounds that a senior Marine lawyer had unlawfully interfered with the case.

Earlier in 2023, Negron and Draher had submitted their requests to retire as gunnery sergeants with an honorable discharge.

“Their career paths have been stalled for the last four-and-a-half years, and I think each independently decided it was time to retire,” Stackhouse said.

Stackhouse said Marine Raider Regiment informed him it had signed off on their requests. Then Marine Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs department reviewed the requests and disapproved them.

Stackhouse noted that Lt. Gen. James Glynn, that department’s leader, was the commander of MARSOC from 2020–2022, meaning he was at one point the convening authority responsible for the court-martial involving Draher and Negron.

“In accordance with Marine Corps Order 1900.16, the Marine Corps conducted a routine process to determine the characterization of service and grade for retirement eligible Marines who have adverse material in their records, such as a court-martial conviction,” Maj. Danielle Phillips, a spokeswoman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said in a Tuesday statement to Marine Corps Times. “This process is standardized by the aforementioned regulation, ensuring the integrity of due process and protecting the rights of the Marines.”

That order states the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, Glynn, “may” disapprove a retirement request based on adverse material in their records.

If the deputy commandant disapproves the retirement request, that automatically triggers an administrative separation process that will determine the terms of the separation. The point of the administrative separation process is to “to ensure the Marine is afforded the procedural rights of a respondent,” according to the order.

That’s how Negron and Draher ended up going before an administrative separation board at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The board was made up of a colonel, a lieutenant colonel and a master gunnery sergeant from Marine Forces Special Operations Command, according to Stackhouse.

The board hadn’t been authorized to evaluate whether the men should be forced to retire or should be retained (and then allowed to resubmit their requests for retirement), Stackhouse said. The lawyer said the process itself was fair but “legally deficient.”

“If the board recommended retention, that would have been the end of their decision-making and we would have been done for the day,” he said. “And Danny and Josh could have walked across the street back to MARSOC and submitted a new retirement request.”

A spokesperson for MARSOC said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times Aug. 3, “Upon receipt of retirement requests from both Marines, the Marine Raider Regiment was directed to conduct a characterization of service and retirement grade determination hearing.” Other than confirming the date of the hearing, the statement didn’t include additional comment.

The board voted to recommend that Negron and Draher retire with honorable discharges at their current pay grade of E-7, allowing them to collect the pay of retired gunnies, Stackhouse said.

“They were disappointed that they had to go through the board but very appreciative of the amount of support that they received, both publicly and by those in attendance at the hearing,” Stackhouse said of his clients. “And they were appreciative and happy with the work and findings of the board.”

Legally speaking, in Stackhouse’s view, the honorable discharges are now a done deal. Having honorable discharges could be important for Draher and Negron when they apply for civilian jobs, Stackhouse said.

What’s not a done deal is the rank at which Negron and Draher will retire, Stackhouse said. Manpower and Reserve Affairs has discretion to make them retire at the lower rank of staff sergeant, effectively stripping the men of a hefty chunk of retirement pay, according to the attorney.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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