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Army sergeant sentenced for maltreatment and battery of soldier who later killed himself
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) ¯¯¯ An Army sergeant was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in prison, a demotion and docked a month's pay for his role in the alleged racial hazing and suicide of a fellow soldier.
Military prosecutors said Sgt. Adam Holcomb and seven other soldiers charged in Pvt. Danny Chen's death physically and emotionally abused the 19-year-old from New York. Chen, of New York City, was found dead in an Afghanistan last October from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
A 10-member military jury at Fort Bragg sentenced Holcomb, of Youngstown, Ohio, on Tuesday morning. He faced a maximum of up to two years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. The forfeiture in pay amounts to a little more than $1,000.
"He will always have the stigma of being convicted at a court-martial," his attorney said during closing statements. "Suffice it to say, Sgt. Holcomb has been punished enough."
Holcomb was convicted Monday by the same jury of maltreatment of a subordinate and assault consummated by battery. He was cleared of the most serious charge, negligent homicide. The jurors concluded that Holcomb assaulted Chen by pulling him out of bed and across large rocks. They found Holcomb guilty of maltreatment for calling Chen "Dragon Lady."
The defense called Holcomb an American hero and argued Chen was an incompetent soldier who killed himself because his family disowned him.
Prosecutors argued that Holcomb needed to be punished as an example to other soldiers.
Holcomb, in an unsworn statement following his conviction, said he apologized for his actions and that he knew what he did was wrong. He described having symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and said he had trouble controlling himself.
"I haven't had a CT scan, but I know I have issues up there," he said in the statement.
Elizabeth OuYang, president of the OCA, an Asian-American civil rights organization, said the Chen family would not make a statement until all the trials are concluded. The second of eight courts-martial in Chen's death is scheduled for Aug. 13.
"Thirty days hardly equates with Pvt. Danny Chen's life being cut short at the age of 19," she told The Associated Press Tuesday. " ... Asian American parents will be petrified to send their sons and daughters to serve in the Army with superiors convicted of racial maltreatment."
OuYang expects the Holcomb verdict to serve as an indicator for the sentences the other men accused of similar crimes face. The trial has garnered international attention and Chinese media made the trip to North Carolina to cover the trial.