Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Asian American Civil Rights Groups Angered by Acquittal and Lenient Sentence in Military Hazing Case of Pvt. Danny Chen

FORT BRAGG, N.C.—Yesterday, a jury acquitted Sergeant Adam M. Holcomb—one of eight soldiers charged in the hazing and death of Pvt. Danny Chen—of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat and violations of a military statute that prohibits hazing. Based on the jury’s recommendation, Sgt. Holcomb, who was convicted of two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault consummated by battery, may only receive a sentence of 30 days in prison, reduction of one rank, to specialist, and a fine of $1,181.55. Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, Tom Hayashi, executive director of OCA, and Elizabeth OuYang, OCA-NY president, issued the following statement.

“The verdict and sentencing recommendation in this case fly in the face of civil and human rights. It is absolutely appalling that following a campaign of humiliation due to anti-Asian bias by Sgt. Holcomb and others that led to Pvt. Chen’s death last October, the jury would not only acquit Sgt. Holcomb of these serious charges, but recommend such a lenient sentence for his actions against Pvt. Chen. And it is quite disturbing that despite his conviction for maltreatment and assault, Sgt. Holcomb will be able to continue to serve honorably in the military, an honor he does not deserve.

Today’s verdict is reminiscent of the Vincent Chin case more than 30 years ago, in which his killers served no jail time and merely received a fine for taking Chin’s life. There was no justice for Chin and today there was no justice for Pvt. Chen, Lance Cpl. Harry Lew or the many other victims of military hazing. The slap on the wrist for Sgt. Holcomb clearly demonstrates that these types of actions are acceptable in the military culture. As long as there is no clear definition of hazing that is punishable under military regulations, there will be future miscarriages of justice for victims like Pvt. Chen.

As a nation, we must come together and demand that Congress and all branches of the military adopt stronger policies to deter and address all forms of hazing, harassment and abuse in our military. There must be a zero-tolerance policy.

AAJC and OCA remain committed to working to address the following:
• A clear definition of “hazing” that is punishable under military regulations.
• Stronger accountability up and down the chain of command.
• Stiffer punishment for failure to report harassment and abuse.
• Protections for victims and whistle blowers of harassment and abuse.
• Mandatory diversity training and inclusion practices to promote more diversity within leadership positions.
• A comprehensive record-keeping system on reports of harassment and abuse.
Six more trials and one more sentencing remain. We fully expect appropriate punishment that reflects that Pvt. Chen’s life was not in vain. We will continue to fight for justice and work to ensure protection for our military members.”

The Asian American Justice Center (, a member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, works closely with its affiliate organizations – the Asian American Institute in Chicago (, the Asian Law Caucus ( in San Francisco and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center ( in Los Angeles – to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities.

OCA ( is a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).

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