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Pvt. Danny Chen’s Family Speaks Out Against Military Hazing As Final Soldier Faces Punishment

Advocate: 'Danny's Death Was Senseless And Could Have Been Prevented'
Army Private Danny Chen (credit: Handout/CBS 2)

Army Private Danny Chen (credit: Handout/CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The family of U.S. Army Pvt. Danny Chen gathered in Chinatown on Tuesday to mark the day the last of eight service members connected with Chen’s suicide faced punishment.

The mother of Danny Chen cried as she spoke about her son’s death by hazing in the Army, WCBS 880’s John Metaxas reported.

WCBS 880’s John Metaxas reports

Danny Chen’s former platoon leader was removed from the Army on Tuesday but will avoid a trial as part of an agreement with prosecutors, the Army announced.

“We ask the Army to try harder to stop hazing in the Army so no other parent has to suffer like we have,” Chen’s mother said through an interpreter.

A statement from Fort Bragg released Monday said 18th Airborne Corps commander Lt. Gen. Dan Allyn initiated an Article 15 against 1st Lt. Daniel L. Schwartz. Allyn’s move called for Schwartz to be dismissed from the Army.

The dismissal request went to the Army Human Resources Command for final action.

Schwartz faced charges related to the death of 19-year-old Chen, who military officials said killed himself last year in Afghanistan after being harassed by other soldiers.

The statement said Army representatives spoke with the Chen family before the government accepted the defense request for the Article 15.

Chen’s father wore his son’s camouflage military cap at the news conference on Tuesday.

An advocate for justice for the Chen family said the punishment the soldiers got for their part in hazing Chen, a Chinatown native, was only “a slap on the wrist.”

“The longest jail sentence of all of the eight was simply six months,” said Elizabeth OuYang, president of Organization of Chinese Americans-NY.

Last July, a 10-member jury at Fort Bragg found Sgt. Adam Holcomb guilty on maltreatment of a subordinate and assault. Holcomb, from Youngstown, Ohio, was found not guilty of negligent homicide in Chen’s death. Holcomb was sentenced to 30 days in prison, demoted to specialist and forced to forfeit one month’s pay.

Holcomb issued a statement from the stand apologizing for his actions.

A second soldier pleaded guilty to one count of hazing and two specifications of maltreatment and was sentenced to six months in prison. Three other soldiers received prison sentences as well. Two received demotions.

According to the Army, the soldiers sentenced in connection with Chen’s hazing death are 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt and Sgt. Travis F. Carden.

The Army said the most serious charge against Offutt of involuntary manslaughter was dismissed.

OuYang also issued a statement asking lawmakers to act to address hazing.

“Now that these court martials have concluded, Congress needs to pass pending legislation to ensure American soldiers will be protected from hazing in the military,” said Elizabeth R. OuYang, president of Organization of Chinese Americans-NY. “Danny’s death was senseless and could have been prevented if someone in this chain of command just did their basic duty and said ‘stop.'”

The military anti-hazing bill sits in committee. OuYang said Asians have faced a disproportionate amount of hazing in the military.

Chen, 19, shot himself to death in a guardhouse Oct. 3, 2011. He was called names while in training, then was subjected to hazing after he was deployed to Afghanistan, according to his family. On the day of Chen’s death, he was forced to crawl about 100 yards across gravel carrying his equipment while his fellow soldiers threw rocks at him, the family said.

He had only been in Afghanistan for two months when he committed suicide. Chen’s relatives say he was brutally hazed during training because he was Chinese-American.

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(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.)