Sergeant Adam Holcomb, the officer acquitted yesterday of the most serious charges he faced in connection with the death of Private Danny Chen, received a recommended sentence of 30 days from a military jury this morning for verbally and physically tormenting his subordinate. The jury’s decision also recommended Holcomb be demoted one rank, to specialist, and pay about $1,200 in fines for his conduct.
Holcomb’s precise punishment remains uncertain; the jury’s recommendation is subject to final approval by Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, base commander at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Holcomb’s trial took place. The base will also host the military trials of seven other officers accused of participating in the racist abuse that prosecutors say drove Chen to kill himself last year while stationed in Afghanistan.
After Holcomb was acquitted yesterday of the heaviest charges he faced in the Chen case (including negligent homicide and reckless endangerment), it seemed inevitable his sentence would disappoint his outspoken critics. Chen’s death bitterly angered Asian-Americans advocates and residents of his native Chinatown community, who say the decision to acquit Holcomb of the negligent homicide charge constitutes a virtual declaration of impunity for officers who partake in racial hazing.