Detroit – The parents of a local Marine recruit who died after falling down a stairwell at a boot camp filed a $100 million federal lawsuit Friday, alleging negligence caused their son’s death.
Raheel Siddiqui, 20, of Taylor, was assaulted, hazed and discriminated against because of his Muslim faith and unnamed officials failed to protect him, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are mother Ghazala Siddiqui and father Masood Siddiqui.
The government also was negligent by almost immediately declaring his March 2016 death a suicide without conducting a full investigation, the family alleges.
The lawsuit is the latest fallout from a high-profile case that has raised questions about the treatment of Muslim recruits by officials within the U.S. military.
The government “failed to consider the possibility that Raheel Siddiqui was fatally injured by one of its own employees, despite investigatory evidence of maltreatment, abuse and hazing …” family attorney Shiraz Khan wrote in the lawsuit.
Defendants listed in the lawsuit include the U.S. Marine Corps, the Parris Island Depot, the Navy and 20 individuals.
The individuals are not identified by name because the Navy denied a public records request by the parents for the identities and ranks of people involved or administratively punished in connection with Siddiqui’s death, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed 19 months after Siddiqui died after falling three stories in a stairwell during a standoff with Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Felix, one of his drill instructors.
The military says Siddiqui committed suicide, but his family disputes that finding, saying their son was hazed and abused at the training depot.
The lawsuit comes ahead of a court-martial in March of Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, the commanding officer at the training facility at Parris Island in South Carolina.
Kissoon was relieved of his command a week after Siddiqui’s death, but Marine Corps officials have said the decision to fire him was related to prior allegations and made before Siddiqui died.
The charges against Kissoon include the failure to bench a drill instructor who was under investigation for allegedly hazing a different Muslim recruit in 2015.
Felix, meanwhile, also is facing charges in military court that include maltreatment of Siddiqui.
After Siddiqui’s death, a series of Marine Corps investigations last year documented systemic hazing and abuse of recruits within the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who spent five years in militant captivity after disappearing in Afghanistan, is expected to enter a guilty plea in his case Monday, the Army said Thursday.
Bergdahl faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for walking away from his infantry platoon’s tiny base just before midnight June 29, 2009, in what an Army investigation has called an attempt to cause a crisis and draw attention to concerns that Bergdahl had about his leaders. He was captured within hours by the Taliban, and turned over to the Haqqani network, a group over the border in Pakistan that tortured him.
The case has been politically charged ever since the Obama administration decided to recover Bergdahl in a May 2014 trade in which the U.S. government released five Taliban officials from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into supervised release in Qatar. Pentagon officials said that doing so was necessary to protect the life of a U.S. citizen, but the decision triggered intense backlash from soldiers and veterans who considered him a traitor for deserting his post and endangering others who were ordered to search for him.
President Trump regularly campaigned on the case while running for president, repeatedly calling Bergdahl a “dirty rotten traitor” and suggesting that if he had walked away from his base 50 years ago, he would have been shot. In reality, no deserter has been executed by the military since World War II.
Bergdahl’s defense team has protested that he could not get a fair trial in light of Trump’s repeated criticism, but the Army declined to drop the charges.
The plea is expected at a pretrial hearing at Fort Bragg, N.C., where proceedings in Bergdahl’s case have slowly unfolded since he was arraigned there in December 2015. The decision was first reported as likely by the Associated Press last week, and the Army disclosed Thursday that a plea is expected as it began registering media to cover the hearing.
Bergdahl’s civilian attorney, Eugene Fidell, declined to comment Thursday in a brief phone conversation. If the plea is entered as expected, sentencing probably will occur Oct. 23, when Bergdahl’s court-martial trial was scheduled to begin.
With a guilty plea likely, scrutiny will center next on the sentence Bergdahl receives. Fidell has said that an Army officer who oversaw an early hearing for Bergdahl’s case in September 2015 recommended a special court-martial, which would have come with a maximum penalty of 12 months of confinement. The Army decided instead to proceed with a general court-martial, which comes with the possibility of a lifetime sentence on the charge of misbehavior before the enemy.
A military doctor determined that Bergdahl exhibited at the time of his disappearance symptoms of a mental condition known as schizotypal personality disorder. It is considered a variant of schizophrenia, but psychotic episodes, delusions or hallucinations are not as frequent, prolonged or intense as schizophrenia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Bergdahl is expected to need a lifetime of care for injuries he suffered while in captivity, according to a nurse practitioner who examined him and testified at one of his pretrial hearings. The conditions include muscular nerve damage in his lower legs, degenerative back damage and a loss of range of motion in his left shoulder that prevents him from lifting heavy objects.
An Ellsworth sergeant has been convicted of assault and penalized with a demotion to the Air Force’s lowest rank.
The victim, an employee subordinate to Hagemann, suffered no physical injuries, Longoria said in response to questions. Hagemann was sentenced to a four-rank reduction to airman basic, the lowest enlisted position in the Air Force.
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