Marine officer pleads guilty for failures in recruit death

A Marine Corps officer responsible for training recruits at a South Carolina base where a violently abused military volunteer committed suicide admits he’s guilty of dereliction of duty and other charges, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon also pleaded guilty to making false official statements and conduct unbecoming an officer just before his court-martial was to begin at Quantico, Virginia, on Monday, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said.

Kissoon had command responsibilities at Parris Island, South Carolina, at a time that drill instructors beat, choked and kicked recruits. The abuse came to light after Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, fell three stories down a stairwell and died in March 2016. His death was ruled a suicide.

Siddiqui was one of the three Muslim-American recruits targeted by a drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix. A court-martial at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, last November found Felix abused more than a dozen recruits and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Including Felix and Kissoon, five Marines were either convicted or pleaded guilty for their roles in the Parris Island recruit abuse scandal. Others were acquitted or their cases were addressed through low-level, non-public disciplinary procedures.

Kissoon’s guilty plea specifies that he improperly assigned Felix to supervising Siddiqui’s training platoon and failed to investigate a separate report of a drill instructor possibly abusing a recruit.

The Navy judge overseeing the court-martial said the case uncovered a number of leadership failures at Parris Island, but Kissoon’s actions didn’t cause Siddiqui’s death, Kissoon’s defense attorney said Tuesday.

“He’s got 28 years in the Marine Corps before this. A completely unblemished record,” Dallas, Texas-based attorney Colby Vokey said.

Kissoon, originally from Brooklyn, New York, agreed as part of his guilty plea to retire from the Marines. He will forfeit $1,000 a month in pay for five months and allow the Navy secretary to decide his rank at retirement, which will determine the amount of pension benefits he will receive, Pena said.


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