HONOLULU (Reuters) - The last of three U.S. Marines court-martialed on charges they physically abused and humiliated a fellow Marine who later killed himself was acquitted on Friday of all charges in the case by a military jury.
The case stems from the suicide of Lance Corporal Harry Lew, 21, who shot himself with his automatic rifle in Afghanistan last April after he was allegedly beaten and hazed by others in his unit for falling asleep while on sentry duty.
A suicide note that read, “May hate me now, but in the long run this was the right choice I‘m sorry my mom deserves the truth,” was found scrawled on Lew’s arm, according to an investigative report cited by the Marine Corps Times newspaper.
Lew, the nephew of a California Congresswoman, and the three men charged with abusing him were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, a unit stationed at the marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay on Oahu.
Capping a four-day court-martial that ended on Friday, a panel of three officers and five enlisted personnel found Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco not guilty of assault, maltreatment, dereliction of duty and wrongfully humiliating Lew.
On February 9, Orozco’s co-defendant and squad leader, Sergeant Benjamin Johns, was acquitted of the charges against him -- dereliction and humiliating Lew.
The first Marine court-martialed in the case, Lance Corporal Jacob Jacoby, pleaded guilty on January 31 to assaulting Lew by repeatedly kicking and punching him, and he was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and a demotion.
Lew was the nephew of U.S. Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat from El Monte California, who attended the court-martial proceedings against Jacoby.
Captain Michael Regner, the company commander who oversaw Lew and other Marines, testified at a hearing last year that he saw Lew asleep on watch as he approached the patrol base the night of the incident, a situation he said would leave the unit more vulnerable to attack.
Editing by Steve Gorman and Tim Gaynor