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Third Hawaii-based Marine's hazing trial to begin

By Audrey McAvoy

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:31 p.m. HST, Feb 21, 2012


A trial begins this week for a third Marine accused of hazing a lance corporal who later committed suicide at their base in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III is accused of putting his foot on the back of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, ordering him to do push-ups, and pouring sand in Lew's face.

Orozco has been charged with assault, humiliating Lew, and cruelty and maltreatment. His general court-martial is scheduled to begin Tuesday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.

Two other Marines have already been tried for allegedly mistreating Lew, of Santa Clara, Calif., in the hours before he killed himself on April 3.

A lance corporal pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and demoted to private first class. A sergeant was acquitted by a court martial jury.

The accusations against Orozco are among the most extensive of any in the case, which involves how the Marines reacted when Lew, one of their squad mates, fell asleep on watch duty late at their remote patrol base in Helmand province.

The 21-year-old Lew, who was a nephew of U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., had fallen asleep on watch and patrol several times since he arrived at the base and joined the squad on March 23. He did so repeatedly even though Taliban fighters had fired on the base multiple times.

His leaders tried various approaches to keep him awake, including taking him off patrols so he could get more rest, according to testimony heard in court.

But the charges alleged those efforts escalated into alleged acts of violence and humiliation on Lew's last night.

The sergeant, Sgt. Benjamin Johns, ordered Lew to dig a foxhole deep enough for him to stand in so Lew could conduct watch standing up. He was charged with humiliating Lew with this order, but a military jury disagreed and found him not guilty. His lawyer told the jury an order isn't hazing if it's for something operationally necessary.

The judge in Johns' trial determined there wasn't evidence that the events of that night prompted Lew to kill himself, so the jury wasn't told he committed suicide. They were only told Lew had died.

The lance corporal who pleaded guilty to assault admitted punching and kicking Lew. Prosecutors agreed to drop hazing charges alleging that Lance Cpl. Jacob Jacoby, now a private first class, humiliated and threatened Lew.

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Pauoa_Boy wrote:
Condolences to the Marine and his family for their loss. All I know is that the Marine Lew who was supposed to stand fire watch and look out for insurgents did not do his job. People are going to say that these Marines getting accused for hazing are in the wrong. Which yes they should not have taken these matters to this extent but at the same time, by Lew not doing what he's supposed to, I would have done the same and got in his face. Being in a hostile environment where insurgents are looking to take you and everyone else they can out, if you fall asleep you just put your whole team in danger of being killed! The fact that he did this on numerous occasions tells me this Marine did not care. The Sergeant that made him dig a fighting hole to stand watch, that was an even compromise. Lew put more lives in danger then his own by falling asleep on numerous occasions. If someone didn't catch him sleeping, an insurgent could have easily taken him out and then taken out the rest of the team without no alarm given. If measures were taken before hand to help the Marine by allowing more time to rest and switching him off of posts more frequently, then what do you do to get this Marine to do his job? I know first hand the Marine had ample time to get enough rest, because there is nothing to do in Afghanistan except work, eat, and sleep. There is no where to go, and absolutely nothing to do there. I am not being insensitive at all, but the fact of the matter is the Marine screwed up, his leaders got in his face like I would've for putting lives in danger, he couldn't take it, and then takes his life. Sad if you ask me...
on February 21,2012 | 06:37AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Give Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III what he deserves, that being an Article 15 at most. The charges were elevated to a general court-martial because Lew's aunt is a member of Congress and has called for hearings regarding hazing in the Corps. The marine brass who decided on the general court-martial may have brass on their shoulders but certainly not in their orbs.
on February 21,2012 | 08:47AM
etalavera wrote:
Who ordered the code red?! On a serious note, it's sad to say but Lew's demise saved the lives of the soldiers he served with. What would his aunt say if he fell asleep again on watch and the whole platoon got killed?
on February 21,2012 | 09:16AM
scooters wrote:
It's PC gone wrong.
on February 21,2012 | 10:14AM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
Not guilty after the jury deliberates for ten minutes.
on February 21,2012 | 01:02PM
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