CHINATOWN — The trial of an Army soldier accused of ignoring the hazing inflicted on Chinatown native Pvt. Danny Chen prior to his apparent suicide last year is set to begin Thursday.
Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, the second in command within Chen's regiment in Afghanistan, is facing charges of violating lawful general order and dereliction of duty for allegedly creating an environment that allowed for racially charged bullying of the 19-year-old soldier.
Dugas is the third of eight soldiers to face trial at the Ft. Bragg Army base in North Carolina regarding Chen's death on Oct. 3, 2012.
"This is really critical," aid Liz OuYang, New York Chapter president of the Organization for Chinese Americans, who helped push the case into the national spotlight. "He (Dugas) was aware of the hazing and did nothing to stop it."
According to the charges against Dugas, the superior officer did not perform his duties correctly and "willfully failed to foster a climate in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect."
The charges also state that Dugas failed to prevent his subordinates from "maltreating and engaging in racially abusive language and conduct" toward Chen.
The second solider to go on trial, Spc. Ryan Offutt, reached a plea deal Monday to avoid his most serious charge of negligent homicide, but received a dishonorable discharged and six months confinement. Under the deal, he also avoided reckless endangerment charges by pleading guilty to maltreatment and failure to adhere to an anti-hazing order.
Last month Chen's supporters were outraged when another soldier, Sgt. Adam Holcomb, was only sentenced to 30 days confinement and avoided a dishonorable discharge after being found guilty of two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault.
Both Offutt and Holcomb were accused of assaulting Chen, including dragging him along a gravel path and using ethnic slurs against him in the weeks leading up to his death. Chen was found on inside a guard tower in Afghanistan with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
OuYang, along with a a group of supporters that includes Chen's parents, are attending the trials in North Carolina.