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Three Marines sent to court martial in lance corporal's suicide

October 26, 2011 |  6:38 pm

Lew Three enlisted Marines have been ordered to a court martial for allegedly mistreating a Marine in Afghanistan who committed suicide just hours later.

Brig. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, commanding general of the Hawaii-based 3rd Marine Division, on Wednesday ordered two lance corporals and a sergeant to court martial for circumstances surrounding the suicide of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew.

Lew, 21, was from Santa Clara in Northern California. His aunt is Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte).

The three Marines are accused of "harassing and demeaning" Lew after repeatedly finding him sleeping on guard duty while their unit, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, was deployed to the Nawa district of Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold. He committed suicide April  3, 2011.

"The Marine Corps prides itself on holding its members to the highest levels of accountability," said Lt. Col. Curtis Hill, spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Pacific.  "The Marine Corps does not tolerate hazing of any kind."

Padilla made his decision after reviewing the results of an Article 32, the military equivalent of a pretrial hearing.

Lance Cpl. Carlos Orozco III and Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Jacoby are charged with "abusing, humiliating, and demeaning" Lew, ordering him to do strenuous exercises and kicking and beating him.

Lew had been caught sleeping on guard four times in 10 days while at a remote outpost, according to testimony at the Article 32. Jacoby allegedly told Lew, "It's inevitable, Lew; you're going to get your ass beat."

Sgt. Benjamin Johns, who had authority over the lance corporals, is charged with failing to supervise his Marines and to ensure Lew's safety.

Before putting a machine gun to his head, Lew left a note on his arm: "May hate me now, but in the long run, this was the right choice. I'm sorry. My mom deserves the truth."


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Photo: Lance Cpl. Harry Lew. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps