Local Military News

MCAS Beaufort staff sergeant pleads guilty in hazing case

One of two noncommissioned officers charged with violating policies on hazing at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort has pleaded guilty, a base public affairs officer said Monday.

The Marine Corps Times first reported Staff Sgt. Justin Samford pleaded guilty last week to assault and violating orders during a court-martial.

Air station spokesman Capt. Jordan Cochran confirmed that Monday.

Samford, an air traffic controller assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, was charged May 20 with violating orders, maltreatment, making a false official statement and assault, after an investigation by the base's Criminal Investigative Division into hazing allegations that surfaced in December, according to Cochran and a Marine Corps news release.

Similar charges were also filed against Gunnery Sgt. James McArthur. McArthur, who serves in the same unit as Samford, faces charges of violating orders, maltreatment and obstructing justice.

Cochran said McArthur's court-martial is scheduled for the first week of September.

He said Samford will receive 45 days restriction and lose two-thirds of his salary for one month.

Cochran said he did not know details of the incidents leading to Samford or McArthur's court-martials.

Less than a week after the allegations were first disclosed by the base, the commanding officer, Col. Brian Murtha, directed the military investigators to look into the hazing allegations. The base has not released any further details, including what the allegations were.

Cochran reiterated Monday that "all leaders aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort are entrusted with ensuring all Marines are treated with dignity, care and respect. Hazing will not be tolerated in any form in our Marine Corps."

The Marine Corps Installations East commanding general's policy on hazing, which applies to the air station, called the prevention of hazing an "all-hands responsibility" and encourages victims or witnesses to report violations.

Under that policy, both perpetrators and officers who condone or neglect to investigate suspected hazing incidents can be punished.

"There is no place in the Marine Corps for dehumanizing treatment," the policy states.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom

Related content:

2 MCAS Beaufort noncommissioned officers charged in hazing investigation: June 13, 2013

Marine Corps Air Station base top law officer to handle hazing allegations: Dec. 19, 2013