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Court-martial recommended in hazing death

KABUL -- An investigative hearing has recommended that an American soldier be court-martialed over hazing that allegedly led to a fellow infantryman's suicide in Afghanistan but dismissed the most serious charge against him, the U.S. military said yesterday.

Spc. Ryan Offutt is one of eight soldiers charged in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, who shot himself on Oct. 3 after what investigators say were weeks of physical abuse, humiliation and racial slurs.

A native New Yorker of Chinese descent, Chen had been in Afghanistan only two months when he shot himself in a guardhouse at a remote outpost in Kandahar Province.

Family members said yesterday they were upset that the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, was set aside.

The hearing recommended Offutt, 32, be court-martialed on charges including assault, negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment, a statement from U.S. military said. The hearing ended Sunday at Kandahar Air Field.

The panel did not recommend trial for an additional charge of involuntary manslaughter. The most serious charge Offutt now faces is negligent homicide, which carries a prison sentence of up to 3 years.

The regional American military commander will make a final decision on any court-martial based on the hearing's recommendations, the statement said.

Offutt, a native of Greenville, Pa., joined the Army in 2006 and served 14 months in Iraq before being deployed to Afghanistan.

Chen's cousin, Banny Chen, said his family is dismayed that the hearing did not recommend trial for Offutt on the manslaughter charge. "It is not enough. He and all the suspects should be tried on the maximum charges possible because of what they did to Danny," Banny Chen said.

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