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Jury selection starts in court-martial of sixth soldier accused in Pvt. Danny Chen case

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Jury selection began this afternoon at Fort Bragg for the sixth soldier accused in the Pvt. Danny Chen suicide case.

The court-martial for Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst was delayed until 1:30 p.m. because four potential jurors failed to show up. The missing jurors were found, and both sides began the selection process to seat 12 jurors.

A charge of negligent homicide has been dismissed against Hurst, but he remains accused of mistreating Chen during a deployment to Afghanistan and allowing other soldiers to mistreat him. Hurst is one of eight soldiers from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to face charges related to Chen's October 2011 suicide. They are being tried at Fort Bragg because their unit was under the command of Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division while in Afghanistan.

Hurst has entered not guilty pleas. He is accused violating a lawful regulation, dereliction of his duties and maltreatment of a person subject to his orders. Documents allege that Hurst wrongfully hazed Chen, called him racially derogatory names and was negligent by failing to prevent four other soldiers from hazing Chen.

Several other accusations, including negligent homicide, have been dismissed. No one was immediately available this morning to explain why those charges were dismissed.

The death of Chen, who was 19, has garnered much attention from the Chinese-American community.

Two other soldiers, 1st Lt. Daniel Schwartz and Staff Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel, also face charges related to Chen's death. Both have trials scheduled this month at Fort Bragg.

Five soldiers have been punished for their maltreatment or hazing of Chen. They are:

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Sgt. Adam Holcomb, who 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, who 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.

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

Sgt. Travis Carden, who was demoted one rank and will forfeit two-thirds of his pay for a month following convictions of hazing and maltreating Chen by calling him racially disparaging names and ordering him to perform pushups with his mouth full of water.

Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis IV, who was demoted to private and sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to hazing and maltreatment.

All eight of the soldiers were assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

woolvertonp@fayobserver.com
 

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