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Two of Danny Chen's Alleged Abusers to Face Trial in Soldier's Death

By Patrick Hedlund | February 15, 2012 7:38pm

MANHATTAN — Two of the soldiers accused of driving Pvt. Danny Chen to commit suicide at his Afghanistan Army base last year will face a military trial on all the charges initially recommended for them, including assault, the military said Wednesday.

Army investigators recommended that Sgt. Travis Carden and Lt. Daniel Schwartz both face a court-martial on charges stemming from the alleged bullying death of Chen, 19, a Chinatown native.

Carden, 25, will face trial on two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault, as well as a reckless endangerment charge added during his pretrial hearing at the government’s recommendation, the military said.

Schwartz, 25, will be brought up on eight charges of dereliction of duty related to Chen’s death, the military added.

Both soldiers had Article 32 hearings in Afghanistan last week to determine whether they would face a court-martial over Chen’s apparent suicide.

Chen, who grew up in Chinatown and the East Village before he was deployed, was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head inside a guard tower in Kandahar Province on Oct. 3, Army investigators said.

The incident resulted in eight soldiers being hit with charges ranging from negligent homicide and assault to making false statements in Chen’s death, which mobilized local politicians and advocacy organizations to press for a fully transparent investigation.

One of the soldiers, Spc. Ryan Offutt, is set to face a military trial on manslaughter and other charges, though investigators did not recommend homicide charges for the 32-year-old last month.

Military officials informed Chen’s family that the solider suffered a pattern of physical abuse and racial taunting during his deployment, including having rocks thrown at him by fellow soldiers and being the subject of discriminatory insults due to his Chinese heritage.

Hearings for the remaining five soldiers are scheduled to take place through Feb. 20.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who joined advocates at a meeting with Pentagon officials regarding Chen's death, welcomed news of the charges being upheld.

“I am encouraged that the charges have been sustained, especially those against First Lieutenant Schwartz, who is the highest ranking of those charged," she said in a statement, which also urged the military to uphold the manslaughter and homicide charges against the remaining soldiers.

"It was his responsibility to set the standard of right and wrong for his troops. The harassment and maltreatment Danny endured was perpetrated by his fellow soldiers and ignored by his superiors. Danny’s superiors were aware of what was going on and they failed to take action."