The Army sergeant accused of contributing to the death of Chinatown soldier Danny Chen was acquitted of negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter charges yesterday. However, Sergeant Adam Holcomb was found guilty of "maltreatment" and "assault consummated by battery," and today a jury recommended a 30-day sentence for him.
The NY Times reports, "Sergeant Holcomb had faced a sentence of as many as two years in prison, as well as a punitive discharge," so when the decision—which also included the suggestion that Holcomb's rank be lowered to specialist—was announced, Holcomb wept in court.
Other members of the military testified that Chen was bullied and harassed—he was called "Dragon Lady" and "gook" and he was pelted with rocks—but many said that was normal for any new soldier who wasn't doing a good job. But prosecutors claimed that the culture of hazing caused Chen to shoot himself in Afghanistan last October. Army prosecutor Maj. Stephen Hernandez said in the military trial to the jury, "Pvt. Danny Chen was an American soldier. He was not a Dragon Lady, an 'egg roll,' a 'chink' or a gook. He was an American soldier. If you let it slide, these soldiers will believe it's okay."
Holcomb did not testify and his lawyer said, "He regrets his actions. Suffice it to say, Sergeant Holcomb has been punished enough." Holcomb's defense sought to show that Chen was miserable about being disowned by his parents, because they objected to his enlistment. Chen's father, though, testified that he was proud of his son and another soldier said that Chen was happy when he received a care package from his family.
Liz OuYang, of OCA-NY, said, "The reputation of the military is tarnished when it lets a sergeant convicted of racist maltreatment to remain in the Army. The sentence of 30 days confinement is hardly equal with Danny Chen's life." And City Council Member Margaret Chin said that the acquittal on the most serious charges was "an affront to the Chen family and to servicemen and women across our country. Never before has the pervasiveness of hazing and bullying in our armed forces been so exposed. Sgt. Holcomb physically and verbally abused Private Chen. His campaign of abhorrent and racist behavior was unrelenting, and it caused Private Chen’s death. By failing to uphold the most serious charges in this case, the military has effectively condoned Sgt. Holcomb’s conduct."