Court-martial begins Monday for 2nd soldier accused of driving Pvt. Danny Chen to suicide
The Fayetteville Observer
The trial of a second soldier accused of driving an Asian-American private to suicide last fall in Afghanistan is scheduled to begin Monday on Fort Bragg.
Spc. Ryan Offutt is charged with negligent homicide and other offenses in the death of 19-year-old Danny Chen.
Chen, of New York, died Oct. 3 of a self-inflicted gunshot in a guard tower near Kandahar.
Army officials have said Chen suffered racial taunts and physical abuse at the hands of soldiers in his company and eventually shot himself.
Last month, Sgt. Adam Holcomb was convicted of mistreating Chen days before Chen's suicide, but he was acquitted of being a cause of Chen's death. Holcomb was sentenced to 30 days in a military prison, demotion of one rank and forfeiture of more than $1,100 in pay.
Six other soldiers also are charged in Chen's death.
All of the soldiers are in the 25th Infantry Division, which is based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, but were under the command of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.
The 82nd's commander asked that the courts-martial be held at Fort Bragg.
Offutt also is charged with reckless endangerment, three counts of assault, four counts of maltreatment of a subordinate and two counts of violation of a lawful general regulation.
He is accused of calling Chen derogatory names, kicking him and throwing rocks and water bottles at him. He also grabbed Chen by his vest and dragged him, court documents say.
Holcomb was found not guilty of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat and two specifications of violating a lawful general regulation.
The jury found that Holcomb assaulted Chen by pulling him out of his bed and dragging him over large rocks. They also decided that Holcomb committed two specifications of maltreatment -- the assault and Holcomb's use of the name "Dragon Lady" when addressing Chen.
During Holcomb's court-martial, officials and soldiers described Chen as a young soldier fresh out of basic training who was unprepared physically and mentally for combat.
Defense witnesses said any punishment that Chen endured was meant to be corrective training and that it was done with the unit's best interests in mind.
But prosecutors alleged that Holcomb and others targeted Chen because of his Chinese heritage and that Chen was often punished needlessly.
The case has received national attention, with New York officials and activists questioning hazing in the military.