MANHATTAN — Trials for the soldiers accused of driving Army Pvt. Danny Chen to commit suicide will be held in the United States, following calls by local advocates to have the cases heard stateside.
Eight soldiers in Chen’s Afghanistan unit were facing charges ranging from manslaughter and assault to making false statements in the 19-year-old’s alleged bullying death last fall.
Chen, a Chinatown native who attended high school on the Lower East Side, was found with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in a guard tower at his Kandahar Province base on Oct. 3.
Military prosecutors declined to pursue the most serious charges, involuntary manslaughter, against four soldiers during hearings held in Afghanistan earlier this year, but they did recommend the soldiers face courts-martial on lesser charges, including criminally negligent homicide.
The courts-martial will take place in North Carolina at the Fort Bragg military base, with the dates to be determined by a military judge, an Army spokesman said.
Lucy Chen, Danny Chen's aunt, was glad to hear of the Army's decision Wednesday afternoon, especially since earlier hearings in the case took place in Afghanistan and the family could not attend.
"It's good news," she said, adding that Danny's grieving parents hoped to get answers about their son's death at the courts-martial.
Lucy Chen added that she hopes to accompany her sister-in-law and Danny's mother, Su Zhen Chen, and Danny's father, Yan Tao Chen, to North Carolina for the military trials.
"I want to come and take care of my sister-in-law and her husband," Lucy Chen said.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents Chinatown and pressed the military for the trials to be held in the U.S., thanked the Army for deciding to move the courts-martial closer to home.
"From the beginning, we have demanded that the Army hold these trials on U.S. soil because that is the only way to ensure transparency and accountability in this case," she said in a statement.
"I am confident that the charges against these eight individuals will be referred to trial and that Private Chen’s family will finally get to face those responsible for the death of their only son."