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First of eight trials start for soldiers in hazing death

Posted July 24, 2012

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— The first of eight courts-martial began Tuesday for U.S. soldiers accused of hazing a Chinese-American recruit over his ethnicity until he killed himself in Afghanistan last year.

Sgt. Adam Holcomb of Youngstown, Ohio, faces a slew of charges, the most serious of which is negligent homicide, and could get nearly 18 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

The court-martial is expected to last through Friday at Fort Bragg, where six of the other seven military trials in the case will also be held. One trial is set for Fort Wainwight, Alaska.

The other soldiers face charges ranging from dereliction of duty to involuntary manslaughter.

Military officials say 19-year-old Danny Chen shot himself last October in a guardhouse after weeks of emotional and physical abuse.

According to court documents, Chen was kicked, dragged from his tent, forced to crawl on a gravel path and had sandbags tied to his arms. The son of Chinese immigrants, he also was called racial slurs and forced to speak to his fellow soldiers in Chinese, according to documents.

He had been deployed for two months when he committed suicide.

During jury selection Tuesday, defense attorneys questioned the military members who will decide the case about so-called "corrective training" and the use of nicknames among soldiers.

One juror described nicknames as "terms of endearment" in a close-knit unit.

Army Pvt. Danny Chen Court-martial attracts international attention

Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, a nonprofit advocacy group that has worked with the Chen family, said the alleged offenses by Holcomb and others went far beyond nicknames.

"I have to have faith in the common sense of this panel to know what are nicknames, that are terms of endearment, and those (names) that are outright offensive," OuYang said.

Chen was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Wainwright, but he was under the command of a Fort Bragg general in Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. James Huggins requested the trial be transferred to Fort Bragg, which military officials said worked out better logistically. Chen's family also lobbied for the trials to be held stateside.

The military is preparing for an influx of Chinese reporters and international media attention.

Chinese-American community members, elected officials, documentary filmmakers and supporters of the Chen family held a news conference Monday in Manhattan's Chinatown, where Chen was born and raised. Many of the group members made the 10-hour drive to Fayetteville for the trial.

"The chain of command, in this case, has failed Pvt. Danny Chen," OuYang said Tuesday outside the Fort Bragg courtroom, as she called for military reform.

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  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Jul 25, 2012

    aknowlton1499,

    I don't "need" to know this from military experience. Newsflash: It's called common sense and of course it comes with age. At his age, he should have known better!

    Beth

  • Half Red Half Blue Jul 25, 2012

    "First off, the soldier should not have allowed THEM to treat him that way. He didn't have to do what they said. So, basically, that is his fault and obviously, that lies with him! If someone even attempted to tell me to do the things they told him to do, I'd tell them where to get off, real fast."

    You know this from military experience?

  • airbornemonty Jul 25, 2012

    If things happened the way that the article says, Where were the officers and why are there not some officers being charged with failure to prevent it from happening.

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Jul 24, 2012

    First off, the soldier should not have allowed THEM to treat him that way. He didn't have to do what they said. So, basically, that is his fault and obviously, that lies with him! If someone even attempted to tell me to do the things they told him to do, I'd tell them where to get off, real fast.

    I think the others should be punished, absolutely. Very sad.

    Beth

  • greg69innc Jul 24, 2012

    Wiser and Pat you both have spoken the truth about these delinquencies and I for one try to bring my boys up in an old school mannerism and I am glad to see that they both know the difference in fun and bullying.

  • corie2 Jul 24, 2012

    Dear readme, I'm going down that path with you. We are not created the same, we all have our mental and physical strengths, some weak and some strong. These soldiers are no better than we are, they are now criminals, and I hope that our justice system will do the right thing. It needs to stop. It makes the TRUE ones who fight for us and the country look bad, and if this continues, who are we to trust. As for odd, read up a little more and you'll find out about how many of our soldiers take their own lives, it's tough, what they see and exposed to, really does effect the mind. God Bless Us All.

    RIP VC

  • tnt4kps2 Jul 24, 2012

    Someone asked where his NCO's and OIC were.... apparently taking part in the hazing. Here is a link that shows their names/ranks

    http://m.fayobserver.com/articles/2012/07/22/1191130?path=/articles/2012/07/22/1191130

  • ponosbybrittobe Jul 24, 2012

    As a 9 year Navy vet and father of two Marines, this a complete failure of leadership from the NCO's to the Company Officers. Anyone can be broken, anyone. The soldiers charged deserve the entire consequence of the UCMJ that they swore to uphold.

  • readme Jul 24, 2012

    Doesn't anyone find it odd that someone committed suicide and negligent homicide charges are being filed? I agree these bad soldiers are a disgrace and need to be held accountable with very serious punishment, but they didn't force him to take his own life. Before everyone flames me, just consider the dangerous path we're going down when someone takes their own life and we think we know why and pushish someone else accordingly.

  • pat7 Jul 24, 2012

    wiser now your so right in your words

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