(Reuters) - Five U.S. Marines have been disciplined for their involvement in a nude photo sharing scandal that targeted women in the military and investigators have identified another 16 suspects who may have committed crimes, the Marine Times reported on Friday.
The Marine Corps was rattled when it was revealed in March that private Facebook group “Marines United” was used to surreptitiously distribute explicit images of women in the armed forces - often with obscene, misogynist commentary.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the matter. U.S. senators on Capitol Hill in March grilled the Navy and the Marine Corps’ top leaders, demanding they aggressively combat online harassment.
The five Marines who were disciplined received non-judicial punishment and were not referred to a summary court-martial, the Marine Times reported, citing a military spokesman.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report or reach representatives for the Marines or the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Aside from the five Marines, investigators have identified 16 suspects - most of them Marines - who may have committed crimes in relation to the photo sharing scandal, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman told the Marine Times.
The report from Marine Times did not identify anyone who was disciplined or who could face charges.
It was not clear what exact conduct the Marines who were disciplined took part in.
The U.S. Code of Military Justice outlaws distribution of sexually explicit photos of others without their consent as an offence punishable by court-martial.
Two women from the U.S. Marine Corps, one still on active duty, came forward in March as victims of the photo sharing scandal in an appearance with their Los Angeles-based attorney, Gloria Allred.
“I can tell you that this exact behaviour leads to the normalization of sexual harassment and even sexual violence,” Erika Butner, 23, who served in the Marines for four years before leaving the service, said at the news conference in March.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Macfie