That was the question decided by a jury against Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix. Felix was a marine drill instructor charged with targeting recruits, particularly Muslims, and having a policy of harassment and abuse. He hurled Islamophobic statements, calling recruits “terrorists” or “ISIS.” He threw a recruit into a dryer, stepped on them, hit them, and had them before a mock beheading.
One of the recruits, Pakistani-American Raheel Siddiqui, ended up committing suicide. However, the question of whether Felix caused the death of Raheel was not for this jury. They were to decide if he abused his power.
Mr. Felix was found guilty and has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, forfeit of all pay, rank reduced to private, and dishonorably discharged. He is not the only one being charged. 5 other drills instructors and the commanding officer face charges, with 11 others facing lesser disciplines. One of the drill instructors, Sgt. Michael Eldridge testified against Felix as part of a plea deal.
The decision demonstrates the changing nature of military persecution for religious discrimination. Would this case have occurred 30 years ago?
The family of Raheel is pursuing a $100 million dollar wrongful death suit. The next major trial will be of the commanding officer, which begins in March.