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.