FORT BRAGG, N.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A soldier was sentenced Monday to about three months in prison and demoted to private for his role in the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen, who authorities say killed himself because he was hazed over his Chinese ancestry.
Spc. Thomas Porter Curtis pleaded guilty to hazing, assault and other charges in the case of Chen’s suicide last fall in Afghanistan, The Fayetteville Observer reported.
Chen, who was from Chinatown, shot himself on Oct. 3, 2011 in Afghanistan after weeks of racial slurs, humiliation and physical abuse by his colleagues, military officials said.
Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Curtis to up to nine months in prison, reduced rank, loss of pay, and a bad conduct discharge.
Curtis, 27, of Hendersonville, Tenn., was accused of using racial slurs against Chen, throwing rocks at him and kicking him. Curtis said he punished Chen to humiliate him in front of his peers. Curtis said he was acting on his own.
Curtis said during a sentencing hearing that his actions were learned during his stint in the Marine Corps before joining the Army. The physical punishments were normal for the Marines, he told the court in an unsworn statement, but that didn’t justify what he did.
“I know now your honor that it wasn’t right, that I went too far,” Curtis told the military judge.
Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said allowing Curtis to stay in the Army puts other soldiers at risk.
“We are disappointed,” she told The Fayetteville Observer after the court-martial. “(The court) has to send a signal somewhere.”
Curtis was the fifth of eight soldiers charged in the case.
Earlier this month, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt pleaded guilty to one count of hazing and two specifications of maltreatment.
He was sentenced to six months in prison. Offutt will also be demoted to private and receive a bad conduct discharge. He faced several charges, including negligent homicide.
Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas Jr. was convicted of using alcohol in a combat zone and dereliction of duty, The Fayetteville Observer reported.
He was demoted to sergeant and sentenced to three months in prison, but was given credit for time served.
In July, Sgt. Adam Holcomb was convicted of mistreating Chen days before Chen’s suicide, but he was acquitted of being a cause of Chen’s death. He was found guilty of maltreatment of a subordinate and assault consummated by battery.
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