KANEOHE BAY (AP) - A trial began Tuesday in the case of a Hawaii-based Marine accused of punching, kicking and pouring sand in the face of a fellow lance corporal who fell asleep on watch in Afghanistan.
The prosecution and defense selected a jury and gave opening statements in a courtroom at Marine Corps Base Hawaii for the general court-martial of Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III. One witness took the stand.
Orozco is the last of three Marines to be court-martialed for the alleged hazing of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, who committed suicide April 3 shortly after the incident.
Last of three Marines tried
Another lance corporal last month pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a reduction in rank to private first class. A jury later found their squad leader, a sergeant, not guilty in a separate trial.
The accusations address how the Marines treated Lew when they discovered that he had fallen asleep again while he was supposed to be on watch at their remote patrol base in Helmand province.
Orozco has been charged with assault, humiliating Lew, and cruelty and maltreatment. His trial is to continue today with additional testimony.
The charges allege that Orozco struck Lew in the back with his foot, and that Orozco struck Lew in the head with his foot when Lew was wearing a helmet. They accuse Orozco of using his fist to strike Lew in the head while Lew was wearing a helmet.
The prosecution says Orozco ordered Lew to do push-ups and side planks, and that Orozco poured sand into Lew's face.
Lew, who was a nephew of U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., fell asleep four times in the 10 days he spent at Patrol Base Gowragi. His leaders tried various approaches to keep him awake, including taking him off patrols so he could get more rest.
On Lew's last night, Marines in his squad allegedly turned to violence and humiliation to address the sleeping.
Pfc. Jacob Jacoby pleaded guilty to assault and admitted punching and kicking Lew. A judge reduced his rank at sentencing. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors drop-ped a charge that Jacoby humiliated Lew - the charge that most closely approximates hazing. They also dropped a charge that Jacoby threatened Lew.
Sgt. Benjamin Johns, the squad's leader, was charged with hazing for ordering Lew to dig a foxhole after he fell asleep April 2. But a jury acquitted Johns after one hour of deliberation. Johns' attorney argued that the foxhole was operationally necessary because it was needed to help keep Lew awake.