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Ex-Marine drill instructor convicted of mistreating recruits at boot camp

He could face nearly 10 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge when he is sentenced.

November 15, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- In the biggest such case in decades at the Marine boot camp here, former Marine Corps drill instructor Sgt. Jerrod Glass was convicted Wednesday by a military jury on eight counts related to the abuse of recruits.

Glass, 25, who was charged with kicking, punching, slapping and ridiculing the young men, could face 9 1/2 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

Jurors indicated, however, that they did not believe dozens of specific allegations in which the only witnesses were the alleged victims themselves. That could count in Glass' favor when he is sentenced.

In a four-day trial, nearly two dozen former recruits testified that Glass abused them for minor mistakes during training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and at Camp Pendleton.

After convicting Glass, the Marine jury of three officers and three senior staff noncommissioned officers heard testimony concerning his sentence. The jurors will begin deliberations on sentencing today.

The verdict and the sentence then will be reviewed by Brig. Gen. Angela Salinas, commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

A conviction of this scope is rare. In the last three years, the recruit depot, which has nearly 500 drill instructors, has seen 44 drill instructors charged with misconduct toward recruits. Of those 44, only two before Glass went to court-martial; others were punished or admonished through an administrative process.

Glass was convicted on two counts of violating orders, two counts of cruelty and maltreatment, three counts of destroying the recruits' private property and one count of assault.

He stood ramrod straight as the verdict was announced. His mother, Barbara, and father, Jerry, had tears in their eyes.

Mother and son had embraced just before the verdict was read. Immediately afterward, Glass' father, a retired sheriff's deputy from Arizona, patted his son on the shoulder. Several of Glass' Marine friends joined the family in the courtroom.

Glass spent two tours in Iraq as a dog handler before attending drill instructor school, from which he graduated with honors. The abuses occurred shortly after his graduation, during his first two months as a drill instructor. They came to light only after he beat a 19-year-old over the head with a tent pole because the recruit could not remember the combination to his foot locker.

Of four drill instructors assigned to the 40-man platoon, Glass was the least experienced and the so-called "kill hat," Marine slang for the one assigned to mete out punishment. All four were relieved of duty when the abuse allegations surfaced.

The two most experienced face criminal charges, and the "third hat" was reduced from sergeant to corporal and is no longer a drill instructor. Two officers and two noncommissioned officers with supervisory responsibility for the four drill instructors were relieved of duty and reassigned.

Glass did not testify during the trial, nor did he make a statement to the judge. The jury deliberated eight hours over two days. Votes on the counts were not disclosed, but a two-thirds vote is required for a conviction.

During the trial, a dog handler who served with Glass testified that he had followed the cardinal rule of dog handling: Never hit a dog. Marine rules prohibit drill instructors from touching recruits except in specific situations, such as when they are showing them how to march or hold a rifle.

Allegations of recruit abuse strike at the heart of the Marine Corps' boast that it runs the toughest recruit training of any military service but does so without the kind of rough, hands-on treatment that once was common.

The Marine Corps revels in its history, with street names and buildings on its bases named after its heroes and battles. Soon after arriving for the 13-week training regimen, recruits are lectured about Marine history.

But the Marine Corps also lives with the legacy of one of the worst cases of recruit abuse in military history: the drowning of six recruits at Parris Island, S.C., in 1956 during a night march into a swamp led by a drill instructor who had been drinking.

With that incident never far from their minds, former Marines concerned with the Marine Corps' public image have been following the Glass court-martial. In the hours after the conviction, two leading former Marines in San Diego said they were convinced the abuses were an aberration.

"This was one sergeant, one bad egg, who broke all the rules," said retired Brig. Gen. Michael Neil, a prominent local lawyer. "The public understands that."

John Dadian, a former enlisted Marine and recently elected president of the San Diego Council of the Navy League, a military support organization, said the verdict "sends the right message: There is zero tolerance for recruit abuse."

But Dadian, a political consultant, said he hopes the jury shows leniency in sentencing.

"This Marine twice went to Iraq to go nose-to-nose with the bad guys," Dadian said. "That should count for something."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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