Homicide charge likely for U.S. soldier
Washington (CNN) — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of shooting 16 Afghan civilians, is likely to be charged with homicide Thursday, his lawyer said.
Lead attorney John Henry Browne told CNN that he expects his client will probably be charged with “homicide and a bunch of other charges,” and predicted that the case would last two years.
Browne said Tuesday that “there may be explanations” for the alleged shooting this month by his client of 16 Afghan civilians, but — even if that is what happened — the government will have a difficult time making its case.
“I don’t know if the government is going to prove much,” Browne said about the shootings of nine children, three women and four men in a village in southern Afghanistan. “There’s no forensic evidence, there’s no confessions.”
Gupta: Predatory action unusual for PTSD
Sgt. Bales’ fmr. coach: “excellent kid”
New info on Afghan massacre suspect
Lawyer: Massacre suspect has memory loss
He added, “Nothing really justifies killing women and children in a noncombat situation. But there may be explanations if that’s true. And right now I want to say once again, I’m not sure that’s true.”
Bales, who had served three tours of duty in Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan, may have been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, Browne said.
Bales suffered a traumatic brain injury during a roadside bomb explosion and lost part of his foot in separate tours in Iraq, his attorney has said. “Anybody that has seen what he’s seen and done what he’s done at the request of the military — and I’m not talking about these allegations — I think would have PTSD … Dragging parts of bodies around is not something you forget very often.”
Bales, who is being held at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, stands accused in the killings in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. The allegations have strained already tense U.S.-Afghan relations and intensified a debate about whether to pull American troops ahead of their planned 2014 withdrawal.
Amid those tensions, the Afghan foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul, is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday in Washington, the Department of State said.
After the shootings, which took place in two neighboring villages just outside a U.S. outpost in the Panjwai district, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded troops withdraw from villages and return to their bases. He said relations between the two countries were “at the end of their rope.”
Afghans are insisting that the suspect be returned to Afghanistan to face trial, even as villagers and lawmakers question the U.S. military’s account of what happened.
U.S. officials have alleged Bales left his outpost alone and carried out the killings in the villages alone.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has promised Karzai a full investigation and said the United States will bring the shooter to justice.
Bales’ lawyer denied that money woes could have led to the soldier’s alleged conduct.
“Sure, there’s financial problems,” Browne said. “I have financial problems, 99% of America has financial problems. You don’t go and kill women and children because you have financial problems.”
Afghan massacre suspect had prior arrest
Karzai doubts U.S. account of rampage
U.S. mission in Afghanistan ‘on track’
Shooting doesn’t deter transfer of power
Browne also denied that the soldier was drunk at the time of the shootings. “A couple of sips of somebody else’s bottle,” he said. “But that’s not drinking.”
He said Bales had met with three of his lawyers, including Browne, for 11 hours and that Bales was in shock and doesn’t remember what happened. “That’s common with concussive injuries,” he said. ‘You remember certain things; you don’t remember other things.”
The attorney said he will not pursue an insanity defense for his client, but one of diminished capacity, CBS reported.
The military will also conduct a separate investigation into the circumstances surrounding Bales’ assignment to the combat outpost in southern Afghanistan, the top commander for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan said Tuesday.
The administrative review, which will take place separately from the criminal investigation, will be conducted by U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen told the House Armed Services Committee.
The investigation will consider how Bales was assigned and why he was assigned to the combat outpost, Allen said. “It will look at the command relationships associated with his involvement in that combat outpost,” Allen said.
“He’s a soldier’s soldier,” defense lawyer Browne said. “He didn’t particularly want to go over there, and he could have used reasons not to, but he did as he was told.”
A defense official told CNN Tuesday that the military had not started the investigation. “It is in preparation to start soon,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record and asked not to be identified. “That is by design not to conflict with the criminal investigation.”
The inquiry will examine other administrative, training and command channels “to see if anything can be attributed to the incident,” the official said.
The official said the investigation will go beyond Bales’ time in Afghanistan and will look at deployment decisions and training he received prior to arriving in that country.
Accounts from the military, Bales’ family, friends and neighbors paint a portrait of a man who bore scars from wounds he received during three previous combat tours to Iraq but remained committed to serving his country, and deployed to Afghanistan in January.