Updated 08/13/2012 11:38 PM
Soldier Accepts Plea Deal In Manhattan Private's Death
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A U.S. Army soldier agreed Monday to a plea deal for his involvement in the death of Chinatown native Private Danny Chen.
Specialist Ryan Offutt, seen above, pleaded guilty to charges of maltreatment and hazing and will spend the next six months in military confinement and be demoted to the rank of private.
Offutt will then be discharged for bad conduct.
It came just as Offutt's court-martial on negligent homicide and assault charges was to begin at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Chen, 19, died in Afghanistan on October 3 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after authorities say he had been hazed over this ethnicity.
Speaking to the judge, Offutt said he was abusive and cruel toward Chen, made him perform unreasonable amounts of physical training and, at one point, said he even threw rocks at Chen.
Offutt apologized to Chen's family and said he should have reported the bullying and mistreatment of Chen.
The specialist also told the judge he thought he was going to die each time he was deployed to Afghanistan, he was under high stress and depressed, and that Chen was an outlet for those frustrations.
Chen's family members and their supporters said Monday that some justice had been served.
"Today brings some measure of justice, so I think we are all relieved that one less superior charged and convicted of racial maltreatment and hazing will no longer be in the United States military," said President Elizabeth OuYang of the Organization for Chinese Americans. "This sentence will not bring back Danny Chen. Danny's life was cut short at age 19. But what this sentence and verdict will do is send a loud message to superiors that they will be punished."
Seven other soldiers have been charged in connection to Chen's death.
Just last month, Sergeant Adam Holcomb was convicted of mistreating Chen but was acquitted of causing his death.
Holcomb was sentenced to 30 days in a military prison, a fine and demotion of one rank, but he will remain in the Army.
Six other soldiers face courts-martial, and several will also take place in Fort Bragg.