Marines Must Surrender Records in Parris Island DI Homicide Case

February 13, 2023Carl Prine
Parris Island recruit

On Feb. 11, 2023, a federal hearing officer overturned a decision by officials at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina to deny legal records tied to a recruit there in 2021. Parris Island has been the site of Marine Corps recruit training since Nov. 1, 1915. Today, approximately 19,000 recruits arrive at Parris Island annually for the chance to become Marines. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro.

In a stinging defeat for the US Marine Corps, the brass must provide the public with the charge sheets for a drill instructor accused of killing a Parris Island recruit in 2021.

In a ruling handed down Saturday, Feb. 11, an internal Department of the Navy court ordered the Corps to provide Coffee or Die with legal paperwork tied to Staff Sgt. Steven T. Smiley, the DI charged with the negligent homicide of 19-year-old Pfc. Dalton Beals at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina.

Investigators say the recruit overheated and died on a torrid black flag day on June 4, 2021, during boot camp’s final Crucible event. Marine Brig. Gen. Walker Field charged Smiley three months ago with negligent homicide, obstruction of justice, maltreatment of subordinates, and four specifications of failing to obey a lawful order — allegations the ex-DI strongly denies.

But when Coffee or Die asked for the charge sheets laying out in writing specifically why the Corps believes Smiley mistreated recruits, the brass suddenly became secretive. They wouldn’t share the records, instead telling Coffee or Die to file a request for the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

On Jan. 10, Parris Island officials denied that written request, too. They contended that releasing Smiley’s charge sheets would compromise his criminal probe, even though he’d been arraigned two months earlier.

Parris Island recruits

Recruits in Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, salute the national colors during an emblem ceremony June 24, 2017, on Parris Island, South Carolina. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Vanessa Austin.

Parris Island leaders didn’t find a sympathetic ear at the Washington Navy Yard civil court that hears FOIA appeals.

In his ruling, hearing officer Sean D. Schrock called the Marines’ denial “inappropriate” because it failed to show “a cognizable harm in release of the subject’s charge sheet” while Smiley undergoes court-martial. He reminded the Marines that the law won't let them “withhold all information because that information was compiled for law enforcement purposes, including a pending court-martial.”

Marine officials at Parris Island did not immediately respond to a Coffee or Die request for comment on Monday. It remains unclear if the Corps will appeal the setback.

Part of an ongoing effort to shine a light on the often secretive prosecutions of service members nationwide, Coffee or Die awaits rulings in three similar cases linked to Marines standing trial in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Arizona.

Read Next: Tribunal: Corps Wrongly Convicted Marine Behind Bars for 6 Years

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved