Two More Soldiers Will Likely Face Trial in Danny Chen’s Death

Private Danny Chen.
Private Danny Chen.

Army investigators are recommending courts martial for two more soldiers accused in the Danny Chen case.  Chen, a Lower East Side resident,was found dead in Kandahar, Afghanistan last October.  Military officials have intimated that Chen killed himself after weeks of emotional and physical abuse by members of his unit.

Following a hearing this week, the investigators concluded that First Lt. Daniel Schwartz of Maryland and Sgt. Travis Carden of Indiana should face military trials. Schwartz is charged with dereliction of duty. Carden is charged with assault and other crimes.

Last month,  they suggested dropping the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, against another soldier, Specialist Ryan Offutt. In the coming week, recommendations are expected concerning five additional soldiers charged with crimes related to the Chen case.

City Councilmember Margaret Chin, who’s been advocating on behalf of the Chen family, released the following statement:

I am encouraged that the charges have been sustained, especially those against First Lieutenant Schwartz, who is the highest ranking of those charged. It was his responsibility to set the standard of right and wrong for his troops. The harassment and maltreatment Danny endured was perpetrated by his fellow soldiers and ignored by his superiors. Danny’s superiors were aware of what was going on and they failed to take action. I urge the Army to uphold the charges negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter against the remaining defendants and to prosecute everyone involved to the fullest extent of the law.

The Chen family  released a statement, as well, saying: “This is good news. We are pleased to see the process is moving forward. But we still must wait to see if justice will ultimately be served.”

Elizabeth OuYang, New York president of the Organization of Chinese Americans, expressed relief that no additional charges have been dropped.  She emphasized yesterday the importance of trying the soldiers in the U.S., something the military has not committed to do.

Chen’s commanding officer and the commander of allied forces in Southern Afghanistan will ultimately decide whether the trials will go forward.