A Marine Corps drill instructor was convicted by a military jury of physically abusing young recruits, sometimes while drunk, and focusing his fury on three Muslim-American military volunteers.
The eight-man jury at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, determined Thursday that Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix was guilty of hazing and maltreatment of recruits at the Marine Corps' Parris Island, South Carolina, boot camp. The jury of five sergeants and three officers decided Felix punched, kicked and choked military hopefuls.
The 34-year-old Iraq veteran could be sentenced to military prison, financial penalties and a dishonorable discharge. The jury was to begin sentencing deliberations Friday.
Felix was accused in more than three dozen criminal counts of being a central figure in an abusive group of drill instructors at Parris Island that came to light after the March 2016 suicide of one of the three Muslim-American recruits Felix targeted.
A hazing investigation led to charges against Felix, five other drill instructors and the training battalion's commanding officer. Eleven others faced lesser, administrative discipline. Felix also was convicted of lying to investigators.
Felix had pleaded not guilty and did not testify during his trial.
The lengthy list of charges against Felix included a series of disturbing acts against more than a dozen recruits. They included commanding recruits to choke each other, ordering them to drink chocolate milk and then training them until they vomited, punching recruits in the face or kicking them to the ground, and twice pressuring Muslim recruits into an industrial clothes dryer.
"He wasn't making Marines. He was breaking Marines," prosecutor Lt. Col. John Norman told jurors Wednesday. Felix was a "bully" who particularly "picked out three Muslim recruits for special abuse because of their Muslim faith."