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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | Local advocates are hopeful that new developments in the investigation into Private Danny Chen’s death will see justice served on at least two — and hopefully all eight — of the soldiers implicated in the East Village soldier’s apparent suicide.
Sergeant Travis Carden, 25, from Fowler, Indiana, will be tried in a general court-martial, the highest level of military court. The trial will be held at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, close to where Chen, 19, was deployed at the time of his death.
Carden’s trial is set to begin April 4, following his arraignment in the coming days. His case is the first to be sent to a court-martial.
If convicted, the sergeant could face maximum punishments ranging from demotion to expulsion from the Army to six-and-a-half years of jail time. He has been charged with two counts of violation of military regulations, two counts of maltreatment, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of assault on Chen.
The forwarding of Carden’s charges to court “shows a good faith effort by the Army to move these cases forward,” said Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of Organization of Chinese Americans.
OCA-NY continues to petition the Army to hold the remaining trials, if trials are authorized, on U.S. soil, or to at least televise them for the Chen family’s viewing — neither of which the Army has arranged to do thus far. The advocacy group has posted videos on YouTube and solicited signatures on the organization’s Web site to bolster the effort.
“Given the suspicious nature of the way Danny died and the Army’s past history,” OuYang said, “it’s really important for there to be transparency for the family and the community by having access to these proceedings.”
Chen’s parents weren’t immediately available for comment on the news about Carden’s case.
As of Feb. 12, Army investigators have also recommended that First Lieutenant Daniel J. Schwartz, 25, from Maryland, be tried for eight counts of dereliction of duty. It’s now up to the brigade commander to determine whether to forward Schwartz’s charges to a court-martial or turn over the decision to his superior for final disposition.
OuYang noted that Schwartz’s charges involve failing to report mistreatment of Chen. “This is a blatant failure of leadership,” she said. “We are relieved no charges were dropped.”
Chen was found dead last October in a guard tower in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Army investigations have revealed he was racially taunted and physically abused by fellow soldiers in the months prior to his death.