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April 4 is first trial of 1 of 8 soldiers implicated in the Death of U.S. Army Private Danny Chen - OCA-NY urges signing of petition to move proceedings to the U.S.

Suzanne Kai

private-danny-chen-photo-credit-us-army-300x276Update: March 26, 2012

The first of eight soldiers implicated in the death of 19-year-old Army Private Danny Chen will be tried in military court April 4 at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Travis Carden, 25, from Fowler, Indiana, will appear before a general court-martial, to face charges of violating lawful general regulation, maltreatment and assault.

The trials of seven other soldiers will be scheduled once their charges are referred to a court-martial. The Organization of Chinese Americans New York Chapter has launched a grassroots campaign including a video and and a petition urging the trials to be moved to the United States.

In a separate case, on October 27, 2011 several Marines were ordered to face court-martial on charges they physically abused and humiliated fellow Marine, 21 year old Asian American Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew. Lew wrote a suicide note to his mother before shooting himself while on patrol in Afghanistan on April 3, 2011. Lew was born and raised in Santa Clara, California.

Related Reports:

AsianConnections.com "Manslaughter charges dropped for 1 of 8 Soldiers accused in death of U.S. Army Pvt. Danny Chen - 2nd 2011 Hazing-Suicide case of APA soldier" By Suzanne Kai (full story below)

Organization of Chinese Americans New York Petition Urging the trials to be moved from Afghanistan to the U.S.

March 8, 2012 - Huffington Post Crime blogger Mari Fagel "Justice for Danny Chen: Courts-Martial Need to be Held in U.S.

Author and journalist William Wong "Justice for the late Army Pvt. Danny Chen?" 

The official U.S. Department of Defense Announcement December 21, 2011

Statement from OCA National December 21, 2011

CBS Evening News December 21, 2011

Private-Danny-Chen-Photo-credit-US-Army-300x276

Update: Jan. 23, 2012

A military investigator has recommended that the manslaughter charge be dropped against U.S. Army Spc. Ryan Offutt in the death of 19 year old Pvt. Danny Chen, the son of working class immigrants from New York's Chinatown.

The investigative hearing recommends that Offutt, 32, a native of Greenville, Pa. be court-martialed on charges including assault, negligent homocide, and reckless endangerment, but did not recommend trial for an additional charge of involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to ten years in prison. The most serious charge Offut faces now is negligent homicide which carries a prison sentence of three years. 

Chen's relatives say he was subjugated to brutal hazing before he apparently committed suicide Oct. 3, 2011. Investigators are reviewing allegations that Chen was subjected to weeks of physical abuse, humilation and racial slurs by members of his unit in Afghanistan before he apparently killed himself.

Elizabeth Ouyang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) expressed disappointment that the involuntary manslaughter charge against Army Spc. Ryan Offutt was dropped.

She told the New York Times, "We hope that the remaining four who have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, that those charges stick in their upcoming hearings." She has urged for the military hearings to be held in the U.S. instead of Afghanistan, so the family could witness them. 

Seven other members of Pvt. Danny Chen's Army unit are scheduled to face investigative hearings this month in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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.

December 21, 2011

"On Wednesday December 21, the U.S. Army charged eight soldiers in connection with the death of fellow soldier, 19 year old Private Danny Chen. The official U.S. military announcement states Private Chen died from "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound." "That's the Army's version." "...We are not convinced," said Elizabeth OuYang, civil rights attorney and president of the OCA New York chapter

Whether by suicide or homicide, the investigation continues.

Private Danny Chen's family says he was the victim of relentless bullying, verbally abused and humiliated with ethnic slurs, and hazing by U.S. soldiers from his battalion, the 1st Stryker Combat Team of the Army's 25th Infantry Division based in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.

On October 3, 2011 U.S. Private Chen was found dead of a gunshot wound to his head in a guard tower. Just hours before, his family said Private Chen had been dragged out of his bed by fellow soldiers, dragged across the floor, forced to crawl, pelted with rocks, ordered to do pull-ups with water in his mouth, and insulted with ethnic slurs. His family said he was accused of forgetting to turn off the water heater after taking a shower. 

In Private Chen's personal journal he began keeping since his basic training in April, 2011, and through his emails and letters are stories of being bullied about his ethnicity. “Everyone here jokingly makes fun of me for being Asian,” he said in one letter to his parents. In another letter he wrote, “People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time." Private Chen said, "They (fellow soldiers) ask me if I'm from China a few times a day." "They also called out my name 'Chen' in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason." I’m running out of jokes to come back at them.” Private Chen completed basic training in April, 2011 and was deployed to Afghanistan in August, 2011.Private Danny Chen - Photo credit What happened to Danny Chen video

A video appeal "What Happened to Private Danny Chen?" posted on YouTube by friends and family, a meeting at the Pentagon on December 14 attended by representatives of Asian American advocacy organizations and individuals, and a vigil in Private Danny Chen's memory attended by hundreds of supporters in New York have helped build public awareness and pressure on the U.S. Army demanding an investigation into his death. 

Asian American advocacy groups and individuals attending the December 14, 2011 meeting at the Pentagon called for a full and transparent investigation into Private Danny Chen's case, and urged measures to stop bullying and discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans serving in the U.S. military.

Organizations and individuals included OCA National, OCA-NY, Japanese American Citizens League, Asian American Justice Center, and former Marine Captain Bruce Yamashita, currently an attorney in the greater Washington DC area. 

In a December 21 statement, OCA National Interim Executive Director Tom Hayashi says "Discovering the way in which Pvt. Chen had come to his death is a bitter reminder of similar incidents in the history of our community including but not limited to the racially charged massacre in Los Angeles’ Chinatown in 1871 and more recently, the case of Vincent Chin, murdered by disgruntled Detroit Caucasian auto workers in 1982." "...what is painfully clear is that racism and hate continues to be a significant challenge in the United States."

Private Chen was the only child of immigrant parents in Manhattan's Chinatown and grew up in a Lower East Side housing project. His mother worked as a seamstress, and father worked as a chef. Private Chen's father Yan Tai Chen and mother Su Zhen Chen appeared at a news conference on Wednesday, flanked by family and supporters. Su Zhen Chen wept as she said through an interpreter that they have some comfort in knowing "that the Army is taking this seriously." 

A spokesman for the military's headquarters in southern Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Alan G. Davis says there are two investigations into Private Chen's death. Wednesday's announcement of the charges against the eight U.S. soldiers is a result of an investigation conducted by the regional command.

The charges vary among the eight soldiers named in connection with Private Danny Chen's death. The charges include maltreatment, involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, assault consummated by battery, and making a false official statement. Click here for the names and charges announced by the U.S. Army's regional command. 

The second investigation is continuing, by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.

Private Danny Chen's family members plan to meet U.S. Army representatives at the Pentagon in January, 2012. 

In a separate case, on October 27, 2011 several Marines were ordered to face court-martial on charges they physically abused and humiliated fellow Marine, 21 year old Asian American Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew. Lew wrote a suicide note to his mother before shooting himself while on patrol in Afghanistan on April 3, 2011. Lew was born and raised in Santa Clara, California.

His family includes former Sunnyvale, California Mayor Dean Chu, and an aunt, U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-Monterrey Park) who has held Congressional hearings on military suicides since her nephew's death. Lew and the three men charged, Jacob Jacoby and Carlos Orozco, both lance corporals, and squad leader Sergeant Benjamin Johns were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

Related Reports:

Author and journalist William Wong "Justice for the late Army Pvt. Danny Chen?" 

The official U.S. Department of Defense Announcement December 21, 2011

Statement from OCA National December 21, 2011

CBS Evening News December 21, 2011

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