Sergeant gets 30 days, demotion in battery of soldier
The Fayetteville Observer
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Sgt. Adam Holcomb will spend 30 days in prison and be demoted to a specialist for mistreating Pvt. Danny Chen days before his suicide.
Military jurors on Fort Bragg handed down the sentence this morning around 11 a.m. They could have put Holcomb in prison for up to two years with a dishonorable discharge.
Holcomb, 30, of Youngstown, Ohio, was accused of driving the 19-year-old Chen to suicide when they were deployed to Afghanistan. But the jury issued a mixed verdict Monday following two hours of deliberations.
Supporters of Chen's family had said they hoped Holcomb would be barred from military service. But the soldier will be allowed to remain in the Army with a demotion to specialist. He will forfeit $1,181.55 in pay and serve 30 days in prison.
The jury found that Holcomb assaulted Chen by pulling him out of his bed and pulling him over large rocks. They also found that Holcomb committed two specifications of maltreatment: one related to that incident and the other being Holcomb's use of the name "Dragon Lady'' when addressing Chen.
He was found not guilty on charges of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat and two specifications of violating a lawful general regulation.
Prosecutors argued this morning that Holcomb should be punished to set an example.
"Men and women who wear this uniform should be judged for what they do when no one's watching,'' said Maj. Stephen Hernandez, one of the prosecutors.
The judge stopped the prosecution after it insinuated that Holcomb should apologize to Chen's parents. The judge, Maj. Bret Batdorff, said he was concerned with the overall tenor and substance of the argument, saying it encroached on the defendant's right to remain silent.
Batdorff told the jurors to disregard that statement and barred prosecutors from making any further comment.
Outside the presence of the jury, Batdorff said he has had to re-sentence cases on appeal for errors much less egregious.
The defense called Holcomb an American hero and asked that he be allowed to continue his military career.
They said if any punishment was handed down, that Holcomb at the most should lose one rank and be ordered to perform 45 days of hard labor without confinement.
The jury could recommend no punishment.
Holcomb was the first of eight Fort Wainwright, Alaska, soldiers charged in Chen's death to stand trial.
According to the Associated Press, Holcomb apologized for his actions in an unsworn statement, going on to admit that he had symptoms consistent with PTSD.
"I haven't had a CT scan, but I know I have issues up there," he said in the statement.
The trial has received international press coverage and Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans, told the AP that the first trial result would scare the Asian American families of servicemembers.
"Thirty days hardly equates with Pvt. Danny Chen's life being cut short at the age of 19," she told The Associated Press Tuesday. " ... Asian American parents will be petrified to send their sons and daughters to serve in the Army with superiors convicted of racial maltreatment."
--The Associated Press contributed to this report