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Kaneohe Marine gets plea deal in hazing-suicide case

By William Cole

LAST UPDATED: 9:13 p.m. HST, Jan 30, 2012

One of three Kaneohe Bay Marines accused of hazing fellow Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew before Lew committed suicide in Afghanistan last April 3 reached a plea deal today and was sentenced to 30 days’ confinement, officials said.

Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Jacoby, 21, pleaded guilty to three specifications, or charges, of assault: that he struck Lew in the back with his foot, and hit Lew’s head with his foot and a closed fist while Lew was wearing a Kevlar helmet.

The government agreed to drop the remaining two charges: of wrongfully abusing, humiliating and demeaning Lew; and communicating a threat.

Earlier today, Lew’s aunt, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California, said the Marine Corps system “broke down” in the hazing meted out by fellow Marines.

Jacoby and two other Hawaii Marines were charged with multiple charges at court-martial ranging from abuse and humiliation to assault and dereliction of duty in the death of Lew, an Asian-American, who, along with the others, was part of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, out of Kaneohe Bay.

Jacoby also received a pay grade reduction from lance corporal to private first class, officials said. 

Chu, a California Democrat and the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, was at the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay today for the special court-martial hearing.

“We want to make sure that the military justice system actually works, and that Harry’s death will not be in vain,” Chu said.

Lew’s father, Allen, from Santa Clara, Calif., along with the dead Marine’s mother and sister, also were in Hawaii for the hearing.

“We are very sad about what we have here,” Allen Lew said. “We just couldn’t believe their own peers could do something like that to their own people. This has been a bad tragedy for us that never can … repair our broken heart.”

At 3:43 a.m. April 3, while crouched in a foxhole he had just been ordered to dig because he had fallen asleep for the fourth time on sentry duty in less than two weeks, the 21-year-old Lew leaned over his automatic weapon, placed the muzzle in his mouth and killed himself, the Marines say.

Sgt. Benjamin E. Johns, 26, and Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III, 22, who were also at Patrol Base Gowragi in southern Afghanistan with Lew, also face charges in his death.

Johns is charged with humiliating and demeaning Lew and dereliction for failing to supervise a Marine under his care.

Orozco faces charges including humiliating Lew, dereliction, maltreatment of Lew for allegedly ordering him to do pushups, ordering him to do leg lifts with a sandbag and pouring sand on his face, and assault for reportedly placing his boot on Lew’s back.

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