Conflict & Justice

Navy discharged 8 sailors from amphibious assault ship seen on hazing video

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A handout image provided by the U.S. Navy shows the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) steams underway with a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) alongside January 14, 2005 in the Indian Ocean.

Credit:

Felix Garza Jr./U.S. Navy

Eight sailors have been discharged from the Navy over a hazing incident aboard a San Diego-based amphibious assault ship, the LA Times reported.

A Navy spokesman told the Associated Press that the eight allegedly assaulted and choked a fellow sailor aboard the Bonhomme Richard on Jan. 17 as part of an initiation rite.

The assault was videotaped and the victim treated for injuries, Lt. Commander David McKinney said.

"He was choked out, evidently blacked out and had bruising," McKinney said.

Fox News described a low-quality video recording taken by one of the sailors showing two men in blue camouflage "vigorously wrestling each other in what appears to be a dark locker room. The two in the video look to be evenly matched, although one man is holding the other in a headlock." 

However, one of the discharged sailors seen in the video, "Bill", told ABC10 News that the attack was just "roughhousing," and that the sailor had not passed out.

He said the alleged victim lied to investigators and added, "They questioned him and he didn't want to get in trouble so he put the blame on everybody else."

The Navy considered the incident hazing, McKinney told the AP. 

The LA Times, meantime, quoted a Navy spokesman as saying that the Navy had a "zero-tolerance" policy toward initiations and hazing.

And ABC10 cited "Navy officials" as saying the commanding officer was simply following the military's Uniform Code of Justice, which compels him to maintain good order and discipline on the ship.

Hazing in the military stoked controversy most recently after the suicide of a Marine in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Harry Lew shot himself in a foxhole in Afghanistan last year after having been beaten, forced to do repeated pushups and fed mouthfuls of sand.

That incident and others led to congressional hearings on hazing in the military.

The sailors, all from junior ranks, received general discharges following a "captain's mast" proceeding held by the ship's commander, Capt. J.L. Harnden, the LA Times reported.

They had "made statements to investigators that amounted to confessions," McKinney said.