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Sergeant Pleads Not Guilty in Pvt. Danny Chen's Suicide Case

By Serena Solomon | August 17, 2012 2:44pm

NEW YORK CITY — The Army sergeant accused of contributing to an environment that led to the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen last year in Afghanistan pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he neglected his duty as the soldier's second in command.

Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, the third of eight soldiers to stand trial in the alleged bullying death, pleaded not guilty to derelict of duty for overseeing an environment accepting of the racially motivated hazing Chen faced.

Dugas also pleaded not guilty to making false statements in the investigation regarding Chen's death in October 2011. The 19-year-old soldier was found on inside a guard tower in Afghanistan with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Eleven witnesses were called to testify against Dugas Thursday during the trial, which continued Friday at the Ft. Bragg base in North Carolina. 

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 soldier 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 discharge 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.