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Advocates Outraged at 'Light Sentence' for Soldier in Pvt. Danny Chen Trial

By Serena Solomon | August 20, 2012 11:12am

CHINATOWN — Community leaders are again outraged at the sentence handed down to a soldier convicted the hazing-related suicide of Chinatown native Pvt. Danny Chen.

In the third of eight trials, a superior solider in Chen's platoon, Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, was found guilty of one count of dereliction of duty for creating an environment where the racially charged bullying of Chen occurred.

The superior officer was sentenced to a reduction in rank and to serve three months in military prison during the trial at the Ft. Bragg military base in North Carolina. He is being credited with time served, accounting for the entirety of his sentence, military officials said.

"We are extremely disappointed by the judge's light sentence. As the senior enlisted officer, Sergeant Dugas was in a position of power to stop the abuse and didn't," said Elizabeth OuYang, New York chapter president of the Organzation for Chinese Americans, which has helped push the case into the national spotlight.

"His failure to ensure the physical well being of Private Chen cost Danny his life." 

OuYang said she hoped Dugas would also be dishonorably discharged from the Army.

Pvt. Chen shot himself in a guard tower while on tour in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2011. In the weeks leading up to his death, he endured racially charged remarks from fellow soldiers as well as physical assaults.

"Staff. Sgt Dugas knew that Private Danny Chen was being tortured by his fellow soldiers," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who has also been advocating for stiffer sentences. She added that Dugas "turned a blind eye to Danny's suffering."

Dugas was found not guilty of making a false official statement in the initial investigation into Chen's death.

The second soldier to go on trial, Spc. Ryan Offutt, reached a plea deal last week 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 furious 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.

The trials of five other soldiers in connection with Chen’s death will continue throughout the year.