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'Ring Leader' Found Guilty in Hazing Death of Pvt. Danny Chen

By Serena Solomon | November 22, 2012 1:51pm

CHINATOWN — The so-called "ring leader" of a group of soldiers who allegedly hazed Pvt. Danny Chen, a Chinatown native, untill he committed suicide has been found guilty and been sentenced.

Sgt. Andrew J. Vanbockel has been found guilty of hazing as well as dereliction of duty for failing to prevent physical and verbal abuse endured by Chen, who shot himself in the head on Oct. 3, 2011 while serving in Afghanistan.

Vanbockel has been sentenced to a reduction in rank along with 60 days of hard labor, according to a statement from the Army.

He is the seventh of eight soliders to go on military trial at the Fort Bragg, NC, army base in North Carolina in connection with Chen's death.

Elizabeth OuYang, a legal advocate for Chen from the Organization for Chinese Americans in New York, called Vanbockel a "ring leader" in the hazing endured by Chen in the months leading up to his death.

"What the staff sergeant Vanbockel did and allowed to happen to Private Chen was not corrective training, it was torture," said OuYang, who has helped bring Chen's case into the national spotlight. "He not only fostered a climate of unrelenting and escalating hazing that ultimately cost Danny his life, he instigated the hazing."

OuYang said the army's sentence for Vanbockel was too lenient for being an instigator in the hazing.

The abuse endured by the then 19-year-old Chen at the hands of Vanbockel and other fellow servicemen included being dragged along a gravel path and being the object of racial slurs.

Other soldiers who have already been tried include Spc. Ryan Offutt, who reached a plea deal in August 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.

In July, Chen's supporter were outraged when another solider, 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.