Chen’s platoon leader will be booted from the Army
BY KAITLYN MEADE | The court-martial trials for Danny Chen’s tormentors ended Dec. 17, after First Lieutenant Daniel Schwartz, the last of eight soldiers to be tried, made a deal with prosecutors, allowing him to avoid a trial on condition of his discharge from the military.
Schwartz, who was Chen’s platoon leader, was the highest-ranking officer to be charged in connection with the Army private’s death. His dismissal was a nonjudicial punishment, according to an Army news release, and there is no word yet on whether the discharge will be dishonorable or honorable, meaning he will continue to receive Army benefits. Eight charges against him in connection with the case — including dereliction of duty — will be dropped.
Chen’s family lives in the East Village, and he attended Pace High School in Chinatown. He 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 New York City’s Chinatown community and local 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 Dec. 18 to discuss the end of the courts-martial and the next step for legislators.
Elizabeth OuYang, president of OCA-NY, expressed the shared feeling of disappointment that 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 pushing for the discharge of four other soldiers charged in connection with Chen’s death, OuYang highlighted two bills, introduced by Congressmember Nydia Velazquez and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, that include anti-hazing language that have been attached as amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act.
A representative from Velazquez’s office noted that the act is currently under consideration by the Senate’s Armed Service Committee, and that the congressmember is strongly advocating for the anti-hazing provisions to be incorporated.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also threw his support behind the effort in a statement, 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.”