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The Danny Chen trials at Fort Bragg drew to a close last week, after First Lieutenant Daniel Schwartz, the last of eight soldiers to be tried, made a deal with prosecutors that will allow him to avoid a trial on condition of his discharge from the U.S. military. Schwartz was the highest ranking officer to be charged in connection to Chen’s death. There is no word yet on whether the discharge will be honorable or dishonorable, meaning he will not continue to receive army benefits.
Chen, a private in the U.S. Army, committed suicide while on duty in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2011, after reportedly enduring ongoing hazing, including racial slurs and physical abuse. His death prompted an outcry from Chinatown and New York officials, led by the New York branch of the Organization of Asian Americans (OCA-NY).
Representatives and advocates for anti-hazing laws met at a press conference on Tues., Dec. 18 to discuss the end of the trials and the next step for legislators.
Elizabeth OuYang, president of OCA-NY, said justice was not served by the military courts-martial.
‘These trials underscored how impossible it is for a subordinate to challenge hazing by his superiors when the system is not supportive or safe to do so,’ she said.
In addition to committing to push for the administrative discharge of the other soldiers charged in connection to Chen, OuYang highlighted two bills, introduced by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that have been attached as amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also threw his support behind the endeavor in a public statement released that day, urging Congress to ‘add a hazing statute to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that provides greater protections for victims and tougher sanctions against perpetrators.’
– Kaitlyn Meade