U.S. Soldier Found Not Guilty of Negligent Homicide, Racist Hazing of Private Danny Chen

The U.S. soldier who was acquitted of the most serious charges he faced for driving an Asian-American soldier to kill himself will serve 30 days in jail and have his rank reduced one ring, and will be allowed to stay in the service. Sgt. Adam Holcomb was dealt his sentence today, just a day after he was found guilty of assaulting and intimidating Chen by a jury of soldiers and officers.

Holcomb was acquitted of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat and hazing for his part in the racial taunts that Chen endured while he was deployed in Afghanistan last year. He faced up to two years behind bars for his conviction. Holcomb is one of eight soldiers to be charged and was the first to be tried.

At issue during the trial was what exactly drove Chen to kill himself. A New York Magazine profile detailed the hazing and racial taunts Chen was subjected to in the weeks before he killed himself.

Since Danny Chen’s death, details of his story have slowly emerged, relayed by Army officials to his family. A group of his superiors allegedly tormented Chen on an almost daily basis over the course of about six weeks in Afghanistan last fall. They singled him out, their only Chinese-American soldier, and spit racial slurs at him: “gook,” “chink,” “dragon lady.” They forced him to do sprints while carrying a sandbag. They ordered him to crawl along gravel-covered ground while they flung rocks at him. And one day, when his unit was assembling a tent, he was forced to wear a green hard-hat and shout out instructions to his fellow soldiers in Chinese.

The verdict and sentencing were a bitter disappointment to Chinese-American advocates who had pushed for justice for Chen’s family. “The reputation of the military is tarnished when it lets a sergeant convicted of racist maltreatment to remain in the Army,” Liz OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans, told the New York Daily News. “The sentence of 30 days confinement is hardly equal with Danny Chen’s life.”

The trial only came after Chen’s family and the Asian-American community in New York City waged a public campaign to demand answers for Chen’s mysterious death on the base. Chen, a 19-year-old son of Chinese immigrants, was his parents’ only child. When Chen was found dead after shooting himself in a guard tower, he’d scrawled ont his arm: “Tell my parents I’m sorry.”

ColorLines / By Julianne Hing

Posted at July 31, 2012, 3:22pm

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