U.S. Marine Corps
A former Marine
Corps senior drill instructor
Island, South Carolina, was found guilty at court-martial of
failing to adhere to recruit training rules in ways that risked
recruits’ welfare, having a recruit complete his college
homework, and forcing another to call his sister so that he could
Staff Sgt. Antonio Burke was, however, found not guilty of
forcing recruits to perform incentive training in a dusty,
abandoned squad bay known as “the Dungeon,” and of slathering
them in sunblock and making them roll around in a sand pit for
the purpose of irritating their skin.
Burke is expected to receive a sentence Friday morning in the
first of three cases involving alleged drill instructor hazing at
Parris Island to be tried at general court-martial.
After a recruit jumped from a third-story barracks building to
his death last March, a series of command investigations turned
up serious allegations of hazing within 3rd Recruit Training
Battalion at the recruit depot.
Fifteen drill instructors were sidelined in the initial probe,
and six were ultimately charged in connection with two separate
alleged incidents, one involving a Muslim recruit thrown into an
industrial dryer, and another involving the Dungeon and a
spectrum of unauthorized and demeaning training activity.
Of the four drill instructors accused in the latter incident,
Burke faced the most serious charges.
But prosecutors were challenged to prove out elements of alleged
hazing when a series of former recruits from Burke’s unit,
Platoon 3044, offered confusing and sometimes contradictory
Regarding the Dungeon, testimony was unclear as to when Burke was
present for the incentive training, and how bad the breathing
conditions were for the recruits, who allegedly did push-ups,
burpees, and other strenuous exercises in the room for five to
ten minutes at a time.
A jury of enlisted Marines and
officers did, however, find sufficient evidence that Burke abused
his power over recruits on multiple occasions.
Marine Lance Cpl. Kelvin Cabrera testified that Burke had
confiscated a family picture showing Cabrera’s sister, then
forced Cabrera to log onto his Facebook page so Burke could
message her. While on the page, Burke saw pictures of another
sister, Jennifer, and made Cabrera call her so that Burke could
proposition her with a trip to Miami.
Jennifer Cabrera testified that the call made her uncomfortable
and worried for her brother.
“I believed the Marine Corps was out there to protect us,” she
said. “That abuse of authority that was going on with my brother
changed my opinion, slightly.”
The jury found Burke guilty as well of lying to an investigating
officer about this activity.
Burke was also found guilty of having a recruit do his homework
for American Public University; of not taking the proper actions
when a recruit, later found to have a heart condition, passed out
on his watch; of conducting unauthorized, or “illegal” incentive
training with recruits on various occasions; and, on one occasion
of grabbing a recruit by the collar and pushing him out of the
He was acquitted of other charges including being drunk on duty,
calling recruits crass names, and throwing their footlockers, all
of which are against regulations. Burke had also been accused of
attempting to bribe recruits with Clif bars to keep them from
saying anything incriminating about drill instructors being
investigated; on that charge, too, he was found not guilty.
Despite the various acquittals, Burke may still stand to face the
greatest punishment of any drill instructor so far for his
inappropriate activities. To date, three other drill instructors
from Platoon 3044 have had cases adjudicated in lesser
In May, Sgt. Riley
Gress was acquitted of violation of a
lawful general order, false official statement, and cruelty and
In June, Staff Sgt. Matthew Bacchus pleaded guilty to charges of
violation of a lawful general order and maltreatment at a summary
court-martial and received administrative punishment. And the
same month, Staff Sgt. Jose
Lucena-Martinez took a plea
deal, avoiding court-martial altogether and receiving
Two more cases, involving the recruit allegedly stuffed in the
dryer, are expected to go to general court-martial this fall.
— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached
Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
Read the original article on Military.com. Copyright 2017.
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