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Marines kicked out over human smuggling, drug trafficking accusations

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  • Several US Marines who were part of a mass arrest at Camp Pendleton in California this summer have agreed to be kicked out of the service instead of facing court-martial or an administrative review.
  • Videos first obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune showed the Marines being handcuffed by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents in front of 800 Marines at parade rest.
  • Following a court hearing in November, a judge ruled that the mass arrest constituted unlawful command influence, which refers to military leaders abusing their position to influence legal proceedings.
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Several of the US Marines who were part of a mass arrest by Navy investigators at Camp Pendleton on July 25 have agreed to be kicked out of the service instead of facing a court-martial or an administrative review, the 1st Marine Division said Tuesday.

“Of the 23 Marines from 1st Marine Division who were detained in July 2019 for human trafficking, drug distribution, and weapons charges six have plead guilty to charges at court-martials,” a division spokesperson said in a statement.

“Thirteen Marines submitted and have approved pre-trial agreements requesting separation in lieu of courts-martial or waiving administrative separation boards. The remaining four Marines are currently in the process of being adjudicated,” the statement added.

Videos first obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune showed the Marines being handcuffed by about 40 Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents in front of 800 Marines at parade rest.

The Marines who were arrested were called in front of the formation “to be recognized,” The Union-Tribune reported, citing court filings.

“NCIS, arrest these Marines,” Sgt. Maj. Matthew Dorsey said.

US-Mexico border


AP Photo/Leslie Hoffman


The formation arrests followed the July 3 detainment of two lance corporals after Customs and Border Protection agents saw them pick up suspected undocumented immigrants at the nearby resort community of Jacumba Hot Springs, The Union-Tribune reported.

The two Marines were charged with trying to smuggle three people across the US-Mexico border, which is considered a federal crime. The Corps said it was during the investigation of the two lance corporals that investigators found others who were allegedly involved.

In November, a judge ruled that the mass arrest was an example of unlawful command influence, which refers to military leaders abusing their position to influence legal proceedings.

“After that ruling, I think the government saw the writing on the wall and wanted to get this out of the court system,” Capt. Charles Whitman, an attorney for one of the Marines, told The Union-Tribune.

Marines who were part of the formation in July reportedly testified that officers described the accused Marines as a “cancer.”

In addition to being kicked out of the Marine Corps, some of charges the Marines face will be dismissed, one of the defense attorneys said.

On Monday, another junior-enlisted Marine from the 1st Marine Division was arrested by CBP agents in relation to allegations they brought undocumented immigrants through the port of entry in San Ysidro, California.

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