A former Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island drill instructor was found guilty of abusing his power over recruits on several occasions — and making a strange phone call to a recruit’s sister — at a recent court-martial.
Antonio Burke, a sergeant who was reduced in rank from staff sergeant and who served as a senior drill instructor in the depot’s 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, was found guilty of inviting a recruit’s sister on a trip to Miami; making a recruit do his college homework; and “failing to adhere to recruit training rules in ways that risked recruits’ welfare,” Military.com reported on Friday.
He was also found to have not taken appropriate action when a recruit — later determined to have a heart condition — passed out; to have ordered unauthorized punishment exercises (called “incentive training”); and to have grabbed a recruit by the collar and pushed him out of line at the mess hall.
Burke was reduced in rank and received a reprimand, Marine Corps Times reported on Saturday.
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Burke, the first Marine to face general court-martial — the highest-level military trial — in the wake of a hazing and abuse probe at Parris Island, was found not guilty of making recruits perform incentive training in an abandoned building known as “The Dungeon.”
He was one of four DIs an investigation — one of three that constituted the probe in the wake of former recruit Raheel Siddiqui’s controversial death — linked to improper activities in that building. Two of those men — Staff Sgt. Jose Lucena-Martinez and Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Bacchus— received administrative punishments for their role in The Dungeon. Another Marine, Sgt. Riley R. Gress, was acquitted of all wrongdoing.
According to Military.com, Jennifer Cabrera — sister of former recruit and, now, Lance Cpl. Kelvin Cabrera — testified Burke’s call and invitation to Miami made her uncomfortable and worry for her brother’s safety.
Kelvin Cabrera testified Burke confiscated a family picture showing another of his sisters, and made the then-recruit log onto Facebook so he could message her.
Burke was also acquitted of being drunk on duty, calling recruits inappropriate names and throwing their footlockers, according to Military.com.
While Burke’s is the most serious trial to date, two other general courts-martial are scheduled to begin soon.
Sgt. Michael K. Eldridge’s trial is scheduled for Sept. 25 to Oct. 6; he is accused of ordering a Muslim recruit into a commercial clothes dryer, turning it on and interrogating the recruit about his faith and loyalty.
Siddiqui fell nearly 40 feet after he jumped from the third floor of his barracks, an action the Marine Corps has deemed a suicide. Siddiqui’s family and attorney dispute that claim. An investigation of the recruit’s death found Felix had called Siddiqui — a Muslim American of Pakistani descent — a “terrorist,” and struck the reportedly sick recruit in the face moments before his death.
Felix should not have been supervising recruits, the Corps said, because he was being investigated for the dryer incident.
A high-ranking officer, Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon, the former 3rd Battalion commander, also faces general court-martial for allegedly failing to sideline Felix.
A spokesperson with the Corps’ Training and Education Command, the unit overseeing the courts-martial, said “the command will put out a release in the near future.”