The military moved to drop the most serious charges against the soldiers accused of driving Pvt. Danny Chen to suicide in Afghanistan — enraging advocates who have been calling for the soldiers to face the harshest possible punishment in the teen’s death.
After reviewing evidence at a hearing in Afghanistan Monday, Army investigators recommended dropping involuntary manslaughter charges that would have carried a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, military officials and advocates said.
Investigators did recommend that the four soldiers face courts-martial on a series of lesser charges, including criminally negligent homicide, which carries a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison, officials and advocates said.
Chen, 19, a Chinatown native, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound while serving in Afghanistan in October. Before his death, his fellow soldiers allegedly pelted him with rocks and taunted him with racial slurs while superiors turned a blind eye.
Eight soldiers in all were charged in connection with Chen’s death, including five who were initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, the most serious offense. One of those soldiers, Spc. Ryan Offutt, already had that charge dropped after facing a military hearing in January.
The remaining four soldiers initially charged with involuntary manslaughter — Staff Sgt. Andrew VanBockel, Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst, Sgt. Adam Holcomb and Spc. Thomas Curtis — faced hearings in Afghanistan Monday. Assuming that higher-ranking military officials concur with the investigating officer’s recommendation, those soldiers will not face involuntary manslaughter charges either.
The entire situation is so horrible. We are all on the same team! Question is, are bullies responsible if someone commits suicide due to the relentless abuse?