LANSING, Kansas (Reuters) - The U.S. soldier implicated in the massacre of 16 villagers in Afghanistan “doesn’t remember” the incident, his lawyer said on Monday after their first face-to-face meeting in a military detention center in Kansas.
“He doesn’t remember everything about the evening in question,” attorney John Henry Browne told reporters outside his hotel in Lansing, Kansas, on Monday evening, after meeting with U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. “That doesn’t mean he has amnesia. There are a lot of other options.”
Browne met Bales at the center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Bales has been in solitary confinement since arriving there on Friday.
Bales, 38, a four-tour combat veteran, is suspected of walking off his base in southern Afghanistan on March 11 and gunning down the 16 civilians, including nine children and three women, in a massacre that damaged U.S.-Afghan relations.
Bales has not yet been charged, but an official from his home base near Tacoma, Washington, said on Monday that charges would likely be filed by the end of this week.
Seattle-based Browne, who has experience defending multiple homicide suspects such as serial killer Ted Bundy, said Bales’ state of mind was “confused” and he indicated their meeting was emotional.
“He was very good about putting me in his shoes, put it that way,” Browne said. “We all know what is going on over there (Afghanistan), but you don’t really know until you look at somebody like that,” he said.
Earlier in the day Browne told CBS News that Bales had gaps in his memory of the evening.
“He has no memory of ... he has an early memory of that evening. And he has a later memory of that evening but he does not have memory in between,” Browne told CBS in an interview.
He added that Bales had drunk alcohol on the night in question, but played it down as a factor.
“He said he had a couple of sips of something. But he didn’t even have a full drink,” Browne told CBS.
More details of Bales’ financial problems emerged on Monday, with evidence that his four and a half-year career as a securities broker was marred by an order to pay almost $1.3 million to a customer he defrauded.
According to a public report from financial industry regulator FINRA, Bales engaged in churning - making questionable trades to garner commissions - as well as breaching fiduciary duty, unauthorized trading and putting a customer’s money into unsuitable investments.
In a 2003 arbitration ruling, Bales was ordered to pay the customer $637,000 in compensation plus interest, and the same amount again as punitive damages. There is no evidence he paid any of that.
The complaint was made against Bales in May 2000, when he worked at Capital Securities of America Inc, based in Hartville in Bales’ native Ohio, according to the FINRA report. Bales joined the Army in late 2001.
The fine is the latest evidence of Bales’ financial problems. He and his wife are looking to sell their main house, in an affluent neighborhood near a Seattle-area lake, for less than they paid for it and a second home, with a mortgage larger than its market value, has been abandoned for two years.
Separately, Bales’ wife Karilyn issued a statement expressing sorrow for the victims in Afghanistan and asking for public understanding.
“Our family has little information beyond what we read and see in the media. What has been reported is completely out of character of the man I know and admire. Please respect me when I say I cannot shed any light on what happened that night, so please do not ask,” Bales’ wife said in a statement circulated by Seattle attorney Lance Rosen. “I too want to know what happened. I want to know how this could be.”
Bales had been injured twice in his previous three deployments to Iraq, including losing part of a foot and suffering a concussion from a vehicle accident.
Attorney Browne has disputed reports that marital problems may have influenced Bales’ state of mind.
A high school football star from southern Ohio, Bales enlisted in the Army about two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
His military training included sniper training as well as courses on military leadership and “combat life savers.” He spent a total of 37 months in three deployments in Iraq between 2003 and 2010, and was distressed about being sent back to a war zone for a fourth tour.
Bales married Karilyn Primeau in 2005, and the couple has two young children. Karilyn Bales and the children have been moved into military lodging at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. She works for a local business communications firm.
Bales has had previous minor run-ins with the law: an assault in 2002 and a misdemeanor citation for leaving the scene of a car accident in 2008.
Major Chris Ophardt, a spokesman at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, told Reuters that charge sheets against Bales would be released by the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan.
Additional reporting by Laura Myers in Seattle and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Writing By Dan Burns and Bill Rigby; Editing by Bill Trott, Eric Walsh and Paul Simao