A military jury sentenced a White military drill sergeant to 10 years incarceration in military prison for targeting and abusing Muslim Marines recruits on Friday (November 9).
The Washington Post reports that the eight-member jury at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, found Joseph Felix guilty of three counts of maltreatment, eight counts of violating orders, one count of drunk and disorderly conduct and another of making false statements to military investigators. Felix will receive a demotion to private and a dishonorable discharge, and he was sentenced to a decade behind bars.
According to The Post, the charges stem from a two-year investigation of recruit abuse at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, where Felix led drills. Two of Felix’s colleagues, Sergeant Michael Eldridge and Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Kissoon, faced similar charges.
The maltreatment counts specifically pertain to Felix’s racist treatment of three Muslim recruits. Ameer Bourmeche and Rekan Hawez both testified during Felix’s trial that he and Eldridge pushed them into industrial clothes dryers; Bourmeche was tumbled in the hot dryer three times until he renounced his faith, per The Associated Press. A third Muslim recruit, Raheel Siddiqui, committed suicide last year by jumping 40 feet onto a concrete stairwell after Felix slapped him during a drill exercise. Multiple witnesses told the jury that Felix used Islamophobic slurs like “terrorist” and “ISIS” when talking to the Muslim recruits, with one member of Siddiqui’s platoon saying that Felix called Siddiqui a terrorist on at least 10 occasions.
The Post reports that Prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel John Norman described Felix as “drunk on power, and sometimes Fireball whiskey,” during closing arguments. He added that Felix “picked out Muslim recruits for special abuse because of their Muslim faith.”
The Post adds that Siddiqui’s family has a pending $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Marine Corps and the United States government. The family argues that Siddiqui was pushed to suicide by his drill instructors.
Marine Corps Times reported in August that Kissoon did not enter a plea deal for his charges of disobeying orders, making false statements and unbecoming conduct. His case is still outstanding.
Eldridge testified for the prosecution as part of a plea deal in which he will plead no contest and serve 60 days in military jail. Felix’s attorney accused Eldridge of striking the deal to escape punishment for his actions, which allegedly includes turning on the dryer with Bourmeche inside. The defense lawyer also argued that Felix didn’t know the recruits were Muslim and that he slapped Siddiqui as a form of medical care for the recruit’s respiratory problems.
The Post reports that Felix remains in military custody at Camp Lejeune until his anticipated transfer to an undisclosed prison facility.