Soldier Faces Hearing At Afghan Base Over Suicide

By Salon Staff

Published January 15, 2012 7:18AM (EST)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An American soldier charged with abuse that led to the suicide of a 19-year-old fellow soldier in Afghanistan is facing a preliminary hearing Sunday on a base in the country, the military said.

Spc. Ryan J. Offutt is charged with offenses including maltreatment, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, the military statement said. Offutt is one of eight infantrymen charged in connection with the suicide.

Chen shot himself in a guardhouse Oct. 3 in Afghanistan after what investigators say were weeks of racial slurs and physical abuse.

Offutt, 32, of Greenville, Pa. was charged in December along with seven others in the same unit. He joined the Army in 2006 and served 14 months in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan. An attorney for Offutt could not immediately be contacted.

Chen, a native New Yorker of Chinese descent, had only been in Afghanistan for two months when he killed himself.

He had told relatives he endured weeks of racial teasing and name calling while in training in the U.S.

After arriving in Afghanistan, investigators said Chen was subjected to hazing by members of his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Chen's family has said investigators told them that at a remote base in southern Afghanistan, he was forced to do excessive sit-ups, push-ups, runs and sprints carrying sandbags and that rocks were thrown at him to simulate artillery.

He also was subjected to racial slurs and was forced to work additional details, a family representative has said.

Sunday's hearing under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice will determine whether Offutt faces court-martial.

The two most serious charges, involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, carry prison sentences of up to 10 years and three years, respectively.

The Army has identified the other soldiers charged as 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, 25, of Maryland (no hometown was given); Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, 35, of Port Arthur, Texas; Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, 26, of Aberdeen, S.D.; Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, 29, of Youngstown, Ohio; Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, 26, of Brooklyn, Iowa; Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, 25, of Hendersonville, Tenn; and Sgt. Travis F. Carden, 24, of Fowler, Ind.

VanBockel, Holcomb, Hurst, Curtis and Offutt were charged with the most serious offenses, including involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and assault and battery.

Salon Staff

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