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A military jury says a Marine is not guilty of hazing a fellow lance corporal who killed himself in Afghanistan.
The panel of three officers and five enlisted Marines found Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III not guilty at a court-martial Friday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
He was acquitted of charges involving the assault, cruel treatment and humiliation of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, of Santa Clara, Calif. Lew was a nephew of U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.
Lew fatally shot himself with his machine gun at their Afghanistan patrol base last April.
Orozco is the last of three Marines to be court-martialed for the alleged hazing of Lew. Another lance corporal last month pleaded guilty to assault. A jury found their squad leader not guilty of humiliating and demeaning Lew.
The 21-year-old Lew 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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