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US Military Leadership Says "Zero Tolerance for Murder, Assault and Hazing," But Marine Corps Courts Rule Differently

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The court martial judge, US Navy Captain Carrie Stephens, said that there was "no evidence that there was a direct link between the assault on Lew and his suicide" that occurred 20 minutes later. The judge did not honor the prosecution's request for a bad-conduct discharge and instead reduced Jacoby in rank to Private First Class and allowed him to stay in the Marine Corps.

Lew committed suicide on April 3, 2011, after he was assaulted by the three Marines because he had fallen asleep for the fourth time in less than two weeks while on sentry duty. Besides being beaten up, Lew had been ordered to do push-ups and leg lifts with a sandbag. The accused had poured sand into his Lew's face and had put their boots in his back.

Lew had been ordered to dig a foxhole as further punishment and while crouched in the foxhole, he put his weapon in his mouth and pulled the trigger.  

Congresswoman Calls Verdict a "Slap in the Face of a Young Man Who Wanted to Serve His Country"

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Lew's aunt, US Congresswoman Judy Chu, called the verdict "a slap in the face to the life of a young man who only wanted to serve his country." Chu said the 30-day sentence for one of the assailants sends the message that "hazing will continue unabated. There has to be reform. There has to be actual enforcement instead of looking the other way." Chu attended the January 30, 2012 court-martial at Kaneohe Marine Base, Hawaii.

Second Marine charged in Lew's assault found not guilty

On February 10, 2012, Sergeant Benjamin Johns, the second Marine charged in the assault that led to Lew's suicide, was found not guilty of "violating a lawful order by wrongfully humiliating and demeaning" Lew. Prosecutors alleged that Johns "hazed: Lew by ordering him to dig a foxhole as punishment for falling asleep on guard duty at their patrol base in Afghanistan. They also charged Johns with failure to intervene when another Marine, Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco, punished Lew by making him carry a sandbag around the base.

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Court-martial jurors were not told of Lew's suicide. The military presiding judge Marine Colonel Michael Richardson ruled that there was no evidence to prove that Lew killed himself because of how he was treated. Jurors were told only that Lew had died.

The court-martial of the third Marine to be tried in Lew's "hazing" assault is still pending. Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco allegedly put his foot on Lew's back, ordered Lew to do push-ups and side planks and poured sand into Lew's face. He is charged with assault, humiliating Lew and cruelty and maltreatment.

Another Asian-American soldier commits suicide after assaults

In another case of assault and hazing of an Asian-American, eight US Army soldiers have been charged in the death 19-year-old Private Danny Chen, who shot himself in Afghanistan on October 3, 2011, after weeks of physical abuse, humiliation and racial slurs. The soldiers, including one First Lieutenant, face charges ranging from dereliction of duty, assault, negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter in Chen's death. The eight soldiers are assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

It is ironic that two Asian American service members have committed suicide in units that are based in Hawaii, the state that has probably the greatest proportion of Asian Americans in the United States.

Congresswoman Chu calls for Congressional hearings on assaults and suicides

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Upon her return to Washington, DC from the court-martial in Hawaii of her nephew's assailants, Congresswoman Chu sent a letter to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee requesting a hearing on assaults on military members by fellow military members. Rep. Adam Smith, the minority head of the Armed Services committee, said that the issue is a "cultural problem within the military, and it needs to be examined."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says assaults are "isolated"

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, condemned "hazing" as intolerable in the military stating it "undermines the service's values, tarnishes its reputation and erodes the trust that bonds us." He added that the assault and hazing incidents appear to be "isolated."

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
 

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