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Another soldier to face court-martial next week in Chen case

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — An Army specialist who allegedly hazed, kicked, dragged and used racial slurs against Pvt. Danny Chen in the weeks before his suicide will stand trial on Fort Bragg next week.

Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis, 27, of Hendersonville, Tenn., will be the fourth soldier to stand trial in Chen's death. Another soldier, Sgt. Travis Carden was punished Wednesday on Fort Bragg in a summary court-martial, a proceeding that occurs without a military judge.

Chen, 19, of New York, committed suicide Oct. 3 at Combat Outpost Palace in Afghanistan.

Eight soldiers from his unit, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, were charged following an investigation of hazing and maltreatment at the outpost after Chen's suicide.

Curtis is charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, six specifications of maltreatment of a subordinate, four specifications of assault and two specifications of violation of a lawful general regulation.

Curtis is accused of maltreatment against Chen and two other unit soldiers — Pfc. Justin M. Christianson and Pfc. Benjamin D. Lowrey, according to court documents.

He's accused of using racial slurs against Chen and of throwing rocks at him, kicking him and ordering him to stand as though he's sitting in a chair and then striking him in the thigh.

Curtis, who has a Purple Heart and has deployed multiple times, will be represented by two military lawyers, according to officials.

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His court-martial is scheduled for two days, according to a trial docket that indicates Curtis will plead guilty to at least some of the charges.

Three soldiers already have been tried on Fort Bragg in the Chen case.

Sgt. Adam Holcomb was convicted of maltreatment and sentenced to 30 days in prison, the loss of one rank and the forfeiture of more than $1,100 after a seven-day trial.

Spc. Ryan Offutt pleaded guilty to hazing and mistreating Chen and was sentenced to six months in prison, a demotion to private and a bad conduct discharge following a plea agreement.

And Chen's platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, was demoted one rank and sentenced to three months in prison following convictions for using alcohol in a combat zone and dereliction of duty, but he will not have to serve any time in prison because of credit for 90 days in prison based on unlawful pretrial punishment.

brooksd@fayobserver.com
 

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