Soldier admits hazing Pvt. Danny Chen, gets 6 months, discharge
The second soldier facing charges in connection to the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen accepted a plea deal Monday, admitting to hazing and maltreating the 19-year-old Lower East Side soldier before his death, but avoiding more serious charges including negligent homicide.
Ryan Offutt was sentenced to six months confinement, a reduction in rank from Specialist to Private and a "bad conduct discharge," according to military officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., where the court martial was held. The government dismissed the homicide and reckless endangerment charges against Offutt in exchange for his guilty plea on the lesser charges.
Prosecutors said Chen, 19, of the Lower East Side, shot himself in a guard tower in Afghanistan last October after facing weeks of physical and verbal hazing -- some of which was racially motivated -- from his colleagues.
Sgt. Adam Holcomb, the first of eight soldiers to face a court-martial in connection to Chen's death was found guilty last month of maltreatment and assault, but acquitted on negligent homicide and harassment charges by a military panel. He is facing 30 days confinement, a reduction in rank, and a pay cut.
Council Member Margaret Chin, who has worked with Chen's family and pushed for strong punishments for his alleged tormentors, called yesterday's sentencing "a victory."
"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," Chin said in a statement. "This sentence ensures that Spc. Offutt will never again have the opportunity to harm or harass a fellow soldier."