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3 Marines to be court-martialed for hazing that led to suicide in Afghanistan

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Three Hawaii Marines will face general court-martial on multiple charges ranging from abuse and humiliation to assault and dereliction of duty leading up to the suicide of Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew in Afghanistan, officials said today.

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

Sgt. Benjamin E. Johns, 26; Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Jacoby, 21; and Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III, 22 — three Hawaii Marines who were at Patrol Base Gowragi in southern Afghanistan with Lew — face charges in his death.

All were with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kaneohe Bay.

Jacoby is charged with abusing and demeaning Lew, three specifications of assault for allegedly kicking Lew in the back and head and punching him while Lew wore his kevlar helmet, and threatening Lew that he would receive a beating, the Corps said.

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, leg lifts with a sandbag and pouring sand on his face, and assault for reportedly placing his boot on Lew’s back.

The charges referred to court-martial against Orozco were modified from those originally brought against him in that one specification of assault for kicking Lew in the head while Lew wore his helmet was dropped, and a second assault charge was altered.

The second assault charge previously said Orozco “stomped” on Lew’s back, while the referred charge says Orozco “placed his boot” on Lew’s back.

At 11:30 p.m. April 2, about four hours before he died, a sleeping Lew was pulled by his helmet from his fighting position, berated in a voice loud enough to wake other Marines and ordered to carry a filled sandbag and dig a new chest-deep position, according to the investigation of his death.

Lew was ordered to do pushups and crunches while a lance corporal would “stomp down” on Lew’s back and legs. Sand from a sandbag was poured on his face and Lew was kicked and punched in the back of his helmet, the report states.

The investigation said the Marines didn’t cause Lew’s death, but were the “catalyst” for it.

Brig. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Division, referred the charges against the three Marines to a general court martial, officials said today. A court-martial date has not been set.


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