Army Pvt. Danny Chen's Supporters to Protest Sentencing in Hazing Trial
MANTATTAN — Supporters of Pvt. Danny Chen, the Army soldier who committed suicide in an Afghanistan guard tower last year, will hold a rally Saturday to protest what they consider to be the light sentencing of a sergeant convicted of hazing the solider.
The event, set for 2 p.m. at Chinatown's Columbus Park, will protest the 30-day sentence handed down to Sgt. Adam Holcomb last month and the lack of a dishonorable discharge for the superior officer, who will be allowed to remain in the military.
Holcomb was acquitted of negligent homicide charges in the Chen case but convicted of maltreatmeant and assault. He was the first of eight soldiers to go on trial in connection with Chen's alleged bullying death. The trial for Spc. Ryan Offutt, who like Holcomb also faces a negligent homicide charge, is set to begin Monday at the Ft. Bragg army base in North Carolina.
"They would not have charged [Offutt] with negligent homicide unless there was evidence to prove that," said Liz OuYang, the New York Chapter president of the Organization for Chinese Americans, who organized the rally along with Councilwoman Margaret Chin.
"We are hoping that the evidence will substantiate a charge of negligent homicide and there will be a sentence that will respect Danny's life."
Chen, 19, was found on Oct. 3, 2011, in a guard tower in Afghanistan with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Holcomb was convicted last month of two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault for using racial slurs against Chen.
The rally will call for Holcomb's dishonorable discharge from the the military. His current sentence includes only reduction in rank, a loss of one-month's pay totalling $1,181.55, and 30 days confinement.
Offutt faces similar charges, including negligent homicide, assault and maltreatment for allegedly using racial slurs against Chen.
Chen's parents, Yan Tao Chen and Su Zhen Chen, along with a small busload of supporters including OuYang, attended the first court-martial. They also plan to attend Offutt's trial with another contigency of advocates.
OuYang is still optimistic for a harsher verdict in Offutt's case, despite being disappointed at Holcomb's sentence and how that could set the tone for the remaining trials.
"We are still hopeful," she said.