Army sergeant faces 17 murder counts in Afghan killings

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:55pm EDT

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (R) 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is seen during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in this August 23, 2011 DVIDS handout photo. REUTERS/Department of Defense/Spc. Ryan Hallock/Handout

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, (R) 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is seen during an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in this August 23, 2011 DVIDS handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Department of Defense/Spc. Ryan Hallock/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, accused of killing Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage in Kandahar province last week, will be charged with 17 counts of murder, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

Earlier accounts of the incident, which has damaged U.S.-Afghan relations, had tallied 16 victims, including nine children and three women.

Bales, a four-tour combat veteran, will also face other charges, including attempted murder, but the official was unable to say how many additional counts there would be.

Legal proceedings would likely take place at Bales' home base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, close to Tacoma, Washington, the U.S. official said.

Bales, 38, is being held in solitary confinement at a military detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas. His civilian defense attorney, Seattle-based John Henry Browne, was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this week, Browne said U.S. authorities had no proof of what occurred on the evening in question, and that Bales had "no memory" of the incident.

Browne, who has defended several multiple homicide suspects, including serial killer Ted Bundy, has indicated that stress may have played a role in his client's state of mind.

He is expected to evoke post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a factor in the trial, a technique he employed in the defense of a Seattle-area thief known as the "Barefoot Bandit." The U.S. Army said this week it was reviewing the way it diagnoses PTSD among troops.

Browne has said that Bales drank alcohol on the night of the shooting, but not enough to impair his judgment. He has denied that marital or financial problems may have negatively affected Bales, but he said his client was not happy at being sent on his fourth war-zone deployment after three tours of duty in Iraq, where he suffered two wounds.

Browne has played down the effect of Bales' financial problems, which include an abandoned property in the Seattle area and an unpaid $1.5 million judgment from his time as a securities broker.

Bales' wife, Karilyn, is being sheltered by the Army at Lewis-McChord.

(Reporting By David Alexander, Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (16)
markafrancis1 wrote:
George W Bush and Barack Obama should be tried and sentenced as well. This war has gone on for far too long and with no good reason.

Mar 22, 2012 8:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
John1973 wrote:
Here is a big difference on how we, the US, treat these horrible actions and how the majority of the radical animals of the middle east does. We are charging this soldier with murder and he will go to trial. If this was the other way around and an Afghan massacred 17 Americans, he or she would would receive a ticker tape parade and be elevated to their equivalent of sainthood. Radical Muslims would consider that justified. Now before some overly sensitive moron gets their fur up over my comment, let me make it clear that my sincerest sympathies go out to the Afghan families who lost loved ones through this tragic occurrence.

Mar 22, 2012 8:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
John1973 wrote:
Thanks Reuters censors for accepting my earlier comment. There’s nothing like media censorship to override freedom of speech. There was nothing inappropriate with my comment.

Mar 22, 2012 8:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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