Court-martial recommended in U.S. soldier's death in Afghanistan
A U.S. military investigating commission has recommended that one of eight soldiers accused in the death of a fellow serviceman in Afghanistan be court-martialed on charges that include negligent homicide, battery and reckless endangerment, but not on the most serious allegation of manslaughter.
The recommendation was announced Monday following an Article 32 hearing in Afghanistan to determine whether Spc. Ryan Offutt should face charges in the death last October of Pvt. Danny Chen of New York.
Chen died of a gunshot wound at a base in southern Afghanistan, and military officials have said he shot himself. But they launched an investigation into his death amid allegations that Chen had faced relentless taunts and physical abuse by fellow soldiers.
Offutt, 32, of Greenville, Pa., is one of eight soldiers who were accused of mistreating Chen, who complained of abuse in messages to friends before he died. The other seven soldiers face their own Article 32 hearings in the next few weeks. Military commanders in Afghanistan will make the final decision on whether to follow the investigating officer's recommendations.
Elizabeth OuYang of the Organization of Chinese Americans, which had led calls for a probe of Chen's death, said the family was "very disappointed" that the involuntary manslaughter charge against Offutt, which carried a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, had been dropped.
"There is a big difference between a three- and a 10-year prison sentence," she told the New York all-news channel, NY1.
The Army has identified the other accused soldiers as 1st Lt. Daniel Schwartz, the only officer accused in the case; Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas of Port Arthur, Texas; Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel of Aberdeen, S.D.; Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb of Youngstown, Ohio; Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst of Brooklyn, Iowa; Spc. Thomas P. Curtis of Hendersonville, Tenn.; and Sgt. Travis F. Carden of Fowler, Ind.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Video credit: Democracy Now, via YouTube