NEW YORK CITY — Defense attorneys in the military trial regarding an Army private found dead of an apparent suicide last year reportedly argued in opening statements Tuesday that the 19-year-old killed himself over strained family relations and not becuase he was bullied.
The attorney for Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, the first of eight defendants charged in Chinatown native Pvt. Chen's death in Afghanistan, contended that the solider took his own life after his mother disowned him for joining the Army, according to reports.
Chen's mother, Su Zhen Chen, who lives in the East Village, reportedly took the stand yesterday in the first of the courts-martial, denying she disowned her son.
"He was the best son in the world for me," she said through a translator, according to The New York Times. "We had a very good relationship."
Prosecuting attorneys allege that Chen was subjected to a host of racial slurs and physical abuse, including being called "Dragon Lady" and "Jackie Chen," the Associated Press reported.
The night of his death, Chen was forced to crawl across a sharp gravel path wearing all his gear while other soldiers threw rocks at him, the AP reported.
He was later found dead in a guard tower of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The defense argued that Chen was "deficient at his duties," and would often fall asleep on watch, the Times noted. The alleged hazings and abuses were reportedly "corrective trainings."
Holcomb is charged with negligent homicide, assault and reckless endangerment, among others, according to military officials.
Seven other defendants will face courts-martial in the coming months over their alleged involvement in Chen's death.