CHINATOWN — Advocates of Pvt. Danny Chen, a solider from Chinatown who committed suicide in Afghanistan, are calling for a harsher sentence for the Army sergeant found guilty of hazing and assaulting him.
In a joint letter from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, officials called for Sgt. Adam Holcomb, the first of eight soldiers to go on trial in connection with Chen's hazing-induced suicide, to be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
Holcomb was acquitted in a military trial of the top charges he faced, including negligent homicide, but he was convicted Monday of two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault. He was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days confinement, a reduction in rank and lost a month's worth of pay, totaling $1,181.55, according to officials at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where the trial took place.
"We believe the punishment proposed by the jury in this case is too lenient and would send the wrong message to the nation's armed forces and to our country as a whole: that the United States Military tolerates this condemnable conduct," the letter to Lt. General Daniel B. Allyn, said.
"We are asking you to impose a more meaningful punishment that makes clear that the Military will not tolerate racism, bigotry, or bias."
Holcomb dragged Chen over a gravel path and peppered him with racial slurs before the officer committed suicide on Oct. 3, 2011 by shooting himself in the head.
"We believe that Sgt. Holcomb's conduct licensed others to similarly target Private Chen, degrading the entire unit and tarnishing the reputation of the United States Military," read the letter from Chin and Quinn.
The sentence outraged those close to Chen, who are planning a rally to protest the sentence on Aug. 11 in Columbus Park, Chinatown, according to Liz OuYang, the New York Chapter president of the Organization for Chinese Americans.
OuYang, who has helped propel the case into the national spotlight, was present at the trials along with the soldier's parents, father Yan Tao Chen and mother Su Zhen Chen. The parents have not yet released a statement regarding the sentence or conviction.
One of Chen's supervisors revealed at trial that the beleaguered oficer had a transfer scheduled for as early as Oct. 4 2011 — the day after his suicide — because he was "struggling to satisfy his responsibilities as an infantryman," according to the New York Times.
The seven other soldiers accused of contributing to Chen's suicide will be tried throughout the rest of the year. The next trial is due to begin Aug. 13.