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Soldier gets 6 months in Chen hazing case

Aug. 13, 2012 - 09:09AM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 13, 2012 - 09:09AM  |  
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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A second soldier accused of driving an Asian-American Army private to suicide received a six-month prison sentence after pleading guilty Monday to reduced charges in a court-martial at Fort Bragg.

Spc. Ryan J. Offutt of Greenville, Pa., pleaded guilty to one count of hazing and two specifications of maltreatment in the death of 19-year-old Pvt. Danny Chen of New York. Authorities say Chen shot himself last year in Afghanistan after being hazed over his ethnicity.

In exchange for his plea and a promise to testify against other soldiers allegedly involved in the death, other charges against Offutt were dropped. He was the second soldier whose case has come before a military judge.

Offutt also will be demoted to private and receive a bad conduct discharge. He faced several charges, including negligent homicide.

"Hazing and racial maltreatment that drives a soldier to his death warrants this strong sentence," said Elizabeth OuYang, New York chapter president of the Organization for Chinese Americans, an Asian-American civil rights group, in a statement released Monday.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that Offutt apologized for his role in Chen's death. He said he knew what he was doing to Chen was wrong. He said he mistreated the 19-year-old because he saw others — people whom he looked up to and respected — doing the same. Offutt said he also suffered from a traumatic brain injury.

Last month, Sgt. Adam Holcomb was convicted of mistreating Chen, but he was acquitted of being a cause of Chen's death on Oct. 3. Holcomb was sentenced to 30 days in a military prison and other penalties.

All of the defendants were members of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

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