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Army recommends trial in soldier death

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:24 AM EST, Tue March 6, 2012
Army Pvt. Danny Chen is honored in a funeral procession on October 13, 2011, in New York's Chinatown.
Army Pvt. Danny Chen is honored in a funeral procession on October 13, 2011, in New York's Chinatown.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The case stems from the death of Pvt. Danny Chen
  • Chen was found dead in a guard tower in Afghanistan
  • The soldiers are accused of hazing and abusing Chen, an official says

(CNN) -- Four soldiers may face a court-martial and charges of negligent homicide in the case of an Army private who apparently committed suicide in Afghanistan, U.S. Army officials said Tuesday.

The case stems from the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, whose body was found in October 2011 in a guard tower in Afghanistan.

An Article 32 hearing was held this week to determine whether the four soldiers will face a court-martial.

After testimony Monday, Army investigators recommended that the soldiers' charges be forwarded to a court-martial and the brigade commander will make the final determination if the case will continue, the Army said.

An Army official has said the soldiers are accused of hazing and abusing Chen in the weeks before he died. Chen's family members also have said the young soldier was harassed by soldiers before he died.

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The Chen family told The New York Times in October that officials said Chen had suffered physical abuse and ethnic slurs by superiors, including an incident in which he was dragged out of bed and across the floor for failing to turn off a water heater after showering.

At a vigil for Chen last year, his brother Banny Chen, read from a letter the soldier had sent to his family.

"They ask if I'm from China a few times a day. They also called out my name, 'Chen,' in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason. No idea how it started, but it's just best to ignore it."

The soldiers were identified as Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst and Spc. Thomas P. Curtis. Along with negligent homicide, all four face dereliction of duty, maltreatment, reckless endangerment, among other charges.

In all, eight soldiers are facing charges related to Chen's death. One of the soldiers, Sgt. Travis Carden, will face a court-martial in April, an Army spokesman said.

In a similar case last year, three Marines were charged with beating and hazing a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, after Lew fell asleep on watch duty.

The Marine was beaten and forced to do exercises and dig a hole until the early morning.

When the punishment was over, he climbed into the hole he had just dug and shot himself to death, said Rep. Judy Chu of California, Lew's aunt.

One Marine has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and a reduction in rank and two others face a court-martial in that case.

CNN's Lateef Mungin contributed to this report.

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