Hazing Ruled Not the Cause of Marine’s Suicide
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Lance Cpl. Jacob D. Jacoby pled guilty to beating a fellow marine, and was punished for the assault but not the subsequent suicide of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew. The trial, which took place last Monday in Kaneohe, Hawaii, landed Jacoby in jail for 30 days, and cost him a rank reduction to private first class.

Jacoby said before trial that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions and was very sorry. During trial he framed the incident preceding the suicide as his own lapse of self control when he lashed out of anger over Lew’s insubordination. Court marshals later this year will address whether or not the situation is more severe.

Lew, who reportedly has often fallen asleep at his post in Afghanistan when he was supposed to be watching out for Taliban fighters at their patrol base in the Helmand province, was this time discovered by a sergeant who told marines under his authority that “peers should correct peers.”


Such correction took the form of extreme hazing, as reported by the deceased’s aunt, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California: “Lance Corporal Lew was beaten, berated and forced to perform rigorous exercise. He was forced to do push-ups and leg lifts wearing full body armor, and sand was poured in his mouth. He was forced to dig a hole for hours. He was kicked, punched, and stomped on. And it did not stop until 3:20 a.m.”

The Marine Corps Times reported what happened next: “At 0343 on 3 April 2011, while crouching down in the fighting position he had just dug, LCpl Lew leaned over his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon as it pointed to the sky, placed the muzzle in his mouth, pulled the trigger, and intentionally killed himself.”

A suicide note found on Lew’s arm read: “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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The court case focused on the question whether fellow marines intended to discipline or to humiliate Lew. The judge said she saw no evidence the abuse led to the suicide.

Lew’s family has tried to understand the fate of their son. “It has been a bad tragedy for us and [we] never can be able to repair our broken heart,” said Allen Lew, the father of the deceased marine.

“Harry’s death was a heartbreaking tragedy that could have been prevented,” said his aunt, Judy Cu, last October. “The decision by the Marine Corps to bring the three marines before a jury of their peers brings comfort to the family and show the military justice system at work.”

Sgt. Benjamin John, who was in charge of Jacoby and Lew’s squad, and Lance Cpl. Carlose Orozco III are to face court-martials over the hazing later this year. Some participants of the proceedings are concerned on what undue influence Congresswoman Judy Chu may have over the case.


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