There’s an update today in the case of Danny Chen, an Army private and Lower East Side native who died in Afghanistan after being racially taunted and abused by his fellow soldiers. An Army investigator has decided that one of the eight soldiers accused in connection with Chen’s death, Specialist Ryan Offutt, should not go on trial for involuntary manslaughter, one of 13 charges he faces.
It’s now up to the commanding officer of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division to decide which charges should be referred to the military command in southern Afghanistan. Offutt and four others were charged with involuntary manslaughter. A hearing that ended yesterday was meant to determine whether there’s enough evidence to order a military trial.
This afternoon, we received the following response from a coalition advocating on behalf of Danny Chen and his family:
“It is not enough; he and all the suspects should be tried on the maximum charges possible because of what they did to Danny,” stated Banny Chen, cousin of Danny Chen… “While the negligent homicide charge is recommended, we are extremely disappointed that the manslaughter charge is not. There is a big difference between a 3 year and 10 year maximum prison sentence. The family and the community are not able to see what is happening in these hearings taking place in Afghanistan-the army has the ability to and should televise these hearings. We hope that all the charges will be recommended for the remaining 7 suspects, including those who have been initially charged with involuntary manslaughter”, stated Elizabeth R. OuYang, President, OCA-New York Chapter. The court martials must be held in the U.S. The family and the Asian American community who he was targeted for belonging to deserve to be able to see justice being served. OCA-NY asks all supporters (nationally and internationally) who seek justice for Danny Chen to go to www.oca-ny.org to sign the petition demanding the court martials take place in the United States.
The other soldiers charged will face hearings in the next several weeks. The military did not explain why the investigator recommended dropping the involuntary manslaughter charge.
The Army has suggested Chen killed himself but they have not released an official cause of death.