Army abuse trial drawing attention

July 23, 2012 at 12:01 PM
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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., July 23 (UPI) -- The court-martials of eight U.S. soldiers charged with pushing a Chinese-American to suicide is drawing attention from Congress, a congresswoman says.

"Private [Danny] Chen's death was not a simple suicide," U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, (D-N.Y.), said in December, the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer reported. "There's clearly more going on here, and Danny's family needs to know exactly what happened."

Velazquez' Service Member Anti-Hazing Act is in the House Armed Services Committee, but some provisions of the bill were passed earlier this year in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the newspaper said.

The amendment helps suspected hazing victims get a quick transfer out of their units.

The Organization for Chinese Americans, other groups and various officials have put pressure on the Department of Defense to bring the private's tormentors to justice.

Chen, 19, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Oct. 3, in a guard tower in Afghanistan.

The Observer said Chen was targeted because of his ancestry, and was assaulted with kicks to his thighs and torso, forced to crawl along gravel, dragged from his tent and had sandbags tied to his arms. His taunters called him "Dragon Lady," "Fortune Cookie" and other epithets, the newspaper said.

The first of eight suspects in the case, Sgt. Adam Holcomb is set for a court-martial at Fort Bragg in North Carolina this week. He is charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat, assault, dereliction of duty, two counts of maltreatment of a subordinate and four counts of violating a lawful general regulation. The Observer said jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday.

Others charged are 1st Lt. Daniel Schwartz, Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel, Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst, Sgt. Travis Carden, Spc. Thomas Curtis and Spc. Ryan Offutt.

The Observer said everyone but Carden will be tried at Fort Bragg. Carden will face a court-martial in Alaska.

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