US Army Panel Advises Trial In Suicide Death Of Pvt. Danny Chen

KABUL, Afghanistan (CBSNewYork/AP) — An investigative hearing has recommended that an American soldier be court-martialed over hazing that allegedly led to a fellow infantryman’s suicide in Afghanistan but dismissed the most serious charge against him, the U.S. military said Monday.

Spc. Ryan Offutt is one of eight soldiers charged in the death 19-year-old Pvt. Danny Chen, of Chinatown, who shot himself on Oct. 3 after what investigators say were weeks of physical abuse, humiliation and racial slurs.

A native New Yorker of Chinese descent, Chen had been in Afghanistan only two months when he shot himself in a guardhouse at a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. His family has said investigators told them that he was subjected to racial slurs and forced to do excessive sit-ups, push-ups, runs and sprints carrying sandbags.

Chen’s family members said Monday that they were upset that the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, was set aside.

The investigative hearing recommended that Offutt, 32, be court-martialed on charges including assault, negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment, a statement from U.S. military said. The hearing ended Sunday at Kandahar Air Field, the sprawling base for U.S. and NATO operations in the south.

The panel, however, did not recommend trial for an additional charge of involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The most serious charge Offutt now faces is negligent homicide, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

The regional American military commander will make a final decision on any court-martial based on the hearing’s recommendations, the U.S. statement said.

Attorneys for Offutt could not immediately be contacted. Offutt, a native of Greenville, Pa., joined the Army in 2006 and served 14 months in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan.

Chen’s cousin, Banny Chen, said his family is dismayed that the hearing did not recommend trial for Offutt on the manslaughter charge.

“It is not enough. He and all the suspects should be tried on the maximum charges possible because of what they did to Danny,” Banny Chen said.

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the basis of an involuntary manslaughter charge “may be a negligent act or omission which, when viewed in the light of human experience, might foreseeably result in the death of another, even though death would not necessarily be a natural and probable consequence of the act or omission.”

Elizabeth Ouyang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, repeated calls for the military hearings to be held in the U.S. instead of Afghanistan, so the family could witness them. Activists have said Chen’s case has raised questions about the military’s treatment of its tiny Asian-American minority.

Seven other members of Chen’s Army unit are scheduled to face similar investigative hearings over the next month at Kandahar.

The Army has identified the other soldiers charged as 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, 25, of Maryland (no hometown was given); Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, 35, of Port Arthur, Texas; Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, 26, of Aberdeen, S.D.; Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, 29, of Youngstown, Ohio; Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, 26, of Brooklyn, Iowa; Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, 25, of Hendersonville, Tenn; and Sgt. Travis F. Carden, 24, of Fowler, Ind.

All are members of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Jamie

    It’s because of people with views like Grits and Offutts that the military desperately needs to reform the system it has in place against hazing and torturing.

    • grits

      I have read SEVERAL stories this past week regarding Pvt. Chen. The week before he was joking with friends an FB along with his cousin, he had told his parents to send him stuff in a care package. Why no complaints about treatment???

      The COMPLAINTS were from BASIC TRAINING NOT PALACE!!! Why can’t any of you RESEARCH!!! Were they hard at him at Palace? YES! They NEEDED him to be able to patrol. Were they racially taunting him there? NO NO NO!!! Where they PT’ing him YES!!! Was he running sprints? YES! Was he doing sit-ups? YES! Was he running sprints? YES!! They have a very small area to run in to build up stamina!! OUTSIDE of the Walls were IED’s. Where was he going to run?????

      They have the journals and the FB chats as well as e-mails. I wonder if you all WILL be aplogizing??? I think NOT!

  • zeek


    • grits

      I am so glad you responded…….Since you are CSM, what would you have done?

  • LJL

    grits, so in cases like these, whether, black, white or asian, it would be OK to assault and bully them if they individually cannot carry their own wait?? That it would be OK if a soldier who was unable to do his job to get his butt kicked, is that what you are saying? Well, I don’t care if they were deep in “Taliban country,” in a squad, in a platoon – who cares…., Both Chen and Lew were US soldiers and fellow soldiers do not beat up on their own. Pvt Chen was subjected to racial hazing, with soldiers throwing rocks at him and calling him ethnic slurs on a daily basis. As for Lcp. Lew – he was physically abused, mistreated, and humiliated by his fellow Marines. And you say there is no time for racial games – wake up! Its happening and has been happening in the army for a long time – do the research. And the fact that you are saying that “NOBODY beat up Pvt Chen” shows how ignorant you are – obviously you have not done your full research. Or do you not know how to read?? And by the way there is a difference between a 15 year old boy training for baseball (who is still a child, mind you in high school) and training in the army. VERY big difference!! Why would you bring up your kid for??? Silly

    • grits

      Sorry but YOU have not done YOUR research. What was it that brought on what happened to Lew? Please tell me…….I’m really curious to hear YOUR version.

      BTW, I have 2 Sons in the Army Infantry, so I KNOW what goes on from actual trooos not a reporter who is getting their story from the AP.

      Lew CONTINUOUSLY FELL ASLEEP ON GUARD DUTY!!! Now are you saying that Chinese Soldiers need more sleep than everyone else. In fact he was on Radio Guard when they had him dig the hole……..tell me what Radio Guard is?

      As for Chen, yes he wore the uniform but he could NOT do his job. That is a FACT! You talk of fellow soldiers but there is an enormous amount of trust that goes along with it……trust that they can do their job. Chen could NOT, that is why he had NEVER been outside of the COP and was given all of the guard duty!!!

      And IF YOU did your research you would know that the racial nicknames and supposed taunts occurred at Fort Benning NOT in Alaska and NOT at Palace!!! So please don’t try to blow smoke up my ass and make the story more sensationalized.

      Chen arrived at Palace UNABLE to do the job he was assigned to……forgetting basic equipment, constantly!!! Not following orders or directions. Granted be new they rouse you to see what kind of person you are and a get a feel for your personality…..but AFTER 45 days a soldier should be ABLE and READY to do their job!!! That is what they are trained for,

      Also, tell me….what do you think caused the two Canadian soldiers to commit suicide at the SAME PLACE just previous to this unit taking over???

      As for baseball training…..funny you ask…today was the first day of conditioning/tryouts…..3 kids quit immediately because they could not keep up. Also, I consider 15 to be will on his way to becoming a MAN not a child!

      IF our military had not watered down the requirements needed to be an Infantry soldier then I would bet that Chen would not have graduated and been in college today not in a combat zone………Oh and where did I get the idea that Basic was hard for Chen……..from his own letters and words!!! He himself admitted he was the WEAKEST soldier in his company at Fort Benning!!!

      • LJL

        No need for the extra hot air that you are claiming and rambling about – basically the point is is that the soldiers that committed these crimes against these 2 soldiers are complete cowards and should be punished. That’s it…

        • grits

          Wrong the Soldiers that are being charged were responsible for the LIVES of 16 others besides themselves. It is the individual Soldiers PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to be trained and ready to do their job!!!

          That is what they sign up for!! And in BOTH cases the Soldier and the Marine FAILED at their job and left 20+ other LIVES IN JEOPARDY!!! Nobody forced either to do what they did, they CHOSE the route they took…….THERE IS NOTHING that could ever make me do such a thing!!!!

  • owl

    no suprise…Pvt. Chen still gets mistreated. He’s dead. It is now cowards’ words against a dead person’s silence.

  • LJL

    it is so obvious that this Ryan Offutt should have been locked up a long time ago due to his history of violence. These guys that did this to Danny Chen are a DISGRACE, not only to this country, but to humanity!!! And the government backs these cowardly soldiers up for beating and killing of a 19 year old kid?? And its an incredible embarrassment to know that the government is not doing enough for Danny, his family, and others who are in situations like Danny (i.e,. Lance Corporal Harry Lew). TO THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF PRIVATE CHEN: PLEASE do not give up on this fight. There are so many people who are behind you on this. We do not want Danny to die in vain – we want justice. He did not deserve this, nobody does. These guys that did this to him are cowards – and should rot in prison!!

    • grits

      Do you know the history of Lcp. Harry Lew? He repeatedly SLEPT while he was responsible for his fellow Marines!!! Pvt. Chen was not physically or mentally able to do his job either….that is a FACT!!!

      So you are saying because they were Chinese they should have been held to a LOWER standard than all the others? Are you saying that the other Soldiers and Marines who were Black, White and Latino were disposable? That Pvt, Chen and Lcp. Lew did not have an obligation to the others? In neither case were these men on Garrisons!!! Do you know what a garrison is? In BOTH cases they were in remote areas, undermanned and deep in Taliban country. EVERYONE had to pull their weight, black, white, latino, chinese, japanese, indian, etc…..there is no time for the racial games you want to play when outside of the walls is death……the IED’S and the Taliban don’t care!!!

      NOBODY beat up Pvt. Chen……do you consider push-ups a beating? Sit-ups? Oh, carrying the 20lb sandbags? When soldiers train, they train carrying other soldiers, NOT 20 lb. sandbags!! If Pvt. Chen was having difficulty sprinting with a 20lb sand bag how could he have sprinted with an injured Soldier out in the field? Not all men arrive at Basic Training physically able to do the task at hand but that is why PT EVERY SINGLE DAY!

      My son is 15 and plays baseball, he trains like this year round……sit-ups and push-ups….it is called CORE strength.

  • grits

    Terrible reporting…..if CBS would have taken the time to do any research on the story the would have know that the “racial taunts” were from his letters to home from Fort Benning, not Afghanistan and EVERYTHING listed as “hazing” is all part of Army Pt.

  • sage

    Arguably the most sad event in America of 2011.

    Now will people believe when African Americans and other minorities speak out against bias.

  • fritz von

    Did he go to the I.G.? Who’s his congressman/chick?

blog comments powered by Disqus
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live