Tuesday, February 07, 2012
There will be no lynching in second Marine hazing court martial
by Larry Geller
Lance Cpl. Harry Lew's suicide in Afghanistan after alleged hazing by superiors has raised awareness of the problem of hazing in the military.
Lew's aunt, Rep. Judy Chu, has demanded a Congressional investigation. She and other family members are in Honolulu to attend the court martial of Sgt. Benjamin Johns, one of three Marines facing various charges in connection with Lew’s suicide.
The first Marine charged in the case received a sentence of 30 days confinement and a reduction in pay. Lance Cpl. Jacob Jacoby agreed to a plea agreement under charges of hazing and making threats were dropped. The family believes that justice was not done.
But there will be no lynching in this second trial. Sgt. Johns is not being charged with causing Lew’s death. His charges are dereliction of duty and hazing. According to his defense attorney, Timothy J. Bilecki of Honolulu, Sgt. Johns was in the center of a triangular combat formation in Afghanistan and did what he needed to do in a responsible manner.
The trial was to begin Monday but the jury could not be seated. Ten minutes before the trial was to start, the government changed the theory of the case, and this left the defense uncertain what they were defending against. The government was to respond to the court by 4:30 p.m. yesterday.
The charges faced by the third defendant will be different again.
Lew committed suicide after alleged beatings and humiliation after he fell asleep four times on watch. The series of three trials and the attention brought by his family will put national focus onto the issue of hazing, but the controversy over justice will also be strong.