At the end of last month, an Army sergeant accused of contributing to the death of Chinatown soldier Danny Chen was acquitted of negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter charges, sparking outrage. Sergeant Adam Holcomb was found guilty of "maltreatment" and "assault consummated by battery," and the military jury recommended a 30-day sentence. But today, a second soldier has been sentenced after taking a plea deal, and at this point he's probably wishing he went to trial.
Spc. Ryan Offutt, 32, pleaded guilty to maltreatment and hazing in connection with Chen's death. According to City Councilmember Margaret Chin, Offutt was sentenced to six months confinement, a reduction in rank from Specialist to E-1 (basic training), and a bad conduct discharge from the United States Army. As part of the plea deal, military prosecutors dropped the more serious charges of negligent homicide and reckless endangerment
Prosecutors allege that the Army's culture of hazing—Chen was called "Dragon Lady," "gook" and was pelted with rocks—caused Chen to shoot himself in Afghanistan last October. Others in the military insisted this was normal for any new soldier who wasn't doing a good job.
"This sentence is a victory for the Chen family and for all Americans,” Councilmember Chin said in a statement. “We cannot tolerate bullying and hazing in our military or in our society. Spc. Offutt used a multitude of racial slurs against Private Chen, hurled rocks at him, and physically abused him. I am proud that the Army has taken a stand against hazing and handed down a bad conduct discharge in this case. The removal of Spc. Offutt from the Army is necessary to make clear that the United States Military will not tolerate racism, bigotry, and abuse at the hands of superior officers.”