Judge Dismisses Lawsuit In Parris Island Marine Recruit's Hazing Death

In June, a U.S. Marine Corps senior drill instructor with Recruit Processing Company, Support Battalion, orders recruits to walk through the iconic silver doors at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
U.S. Marine Corps photo

A federal judge in Detroit on Tuesday dismissed a $100-million lawsuit against the U.S. Marine Corps brought by the family of Raheel Siddiqui, who died in a fall from a stairwell at the Marines' Parris Island, South Carolina, boot camp in April 2016.

In dismissing the Siddiqui family's case, U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow said he was bound by federal precedent requiring him to do so in cases involving liability stemming from harm to military personnel, despite expressing "strong reservations" about it.

The Siddiqui family, through its Southfield attorney, Shiraz Khan, said the legal fight may not be over and an appeal could be coming.

“Although the Siddiqui family is disappointed with today’s decision, we will proceed with our options under the law," Khan said. "This case is not only about the systemic hazing and tragic death of a young American on American soil, it’s also about the fundamental issues related to the military recruitment process."

It is the latest chapter in a case that, from the start, has received international attention, leading, in part, to the court-martial of Siddiqui's drill instructor and several investigations into recruit hazing and abuse at the famed boot camp on the South Carolina coast.

Siddiqui, 20, was a former valedictorian at Truman High in Taylor when he entered the Marine Corps and was sent to Parris Island for training. But just days after his formal training began, he died in a three-story fall from a barracks stairwell that the Marine Corps quickly called a suicide.

The family steadfastly rejected that suggestion, saying Siddiqui, as a faithful Muslim would not have killed himself, despite the Corps' contention that he threatened to do so just days before he died. But in the investigations that followed, some 20 personnel at Parris Island were disciplined for recruit abuse or hazing and it was alleged that Siddiqui — along with other Muslim recruits — had been referred to as "terrorists."

Last November, Siddiqui's drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, a 15-year Marine Corps veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sentenced to 10 years' confinement for mistreating recruits, including Siddiqui and another Muslim recruit he was accused of ordering into a dryer on base and turning it on, burning him.

In Siddiqui's case, Felix was found guilty of forcing the recruit to run sprints in the barracks after he requested medical attention for a sore, bleeding throat. According to prosecutors, when Siddiqui collapsed on the barracks floor, Felix slapped him at least once across the face before the recruit got to his feet, ran out an exterior door and leaped over a railing, his foot catching on it as he went over.

Related: What Happens When You Smile In The Shower At Parris Island? Former Recruits Testify »

Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, who oversaw Felix, also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation but did not receive any reduction in rank or a prison sentence.

Siddiqui's family — which has yet to succeed in getting a local coroner to reverse the finding of suicide — filed the $100-million lawsuit against the Marine Corps and the government saying Raheel Siddiqui and the family should have been warned about the dangers he faced, given that Felix was already being investigated for an alleged earlier incident when his boot camp began.

The family also argued that Siddiqui, as a recruit, was not active duty military and the so-called Feres Doctrine —a decades-old Supreme Court decision that effectively bar suits for injuries sustained by military personnel related to their service — shouldn't apply.

Tarnow said despite his doubts about Feres, his hands were tied.

"The question is whether Pvt. Siddiqui's injuries arose out of, or were sustained in the course of, activity incident to service," he wrote. "The answer, according to binding precedent, is yes, even though (he) was not yet a Marine."

"The court cannot let the family move forward with their suit," he continued. "The Feres Doctrine ... bars the suit. That doctrine has long been heavily criticized ... Since Feres, soldiers suffering even the most brutal injuries due to military negligence have been shut out of the court."

"Nevertheless," he said, "and despite strong reservations, the court remains bound by Feres and its progeny."


©2018 the Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less