At­tor­ney: Meet­ing with Afghan-killings sus­pect ‘emo­tional’

Staff Sgt. Bales in iso­la­tion at Fort Leav­en­worth

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY GENE JOHN­SON AND

FORT LEAV­EN­WORTH, KAN. | A Seat­tle lawyer who is de­fend­ing an Army staff sergeant sus­pected of killing 16 Afghans, in­clud­ing nine chil­dren, met Mon­day with the sol­dier for the first time at Fort Leav­en­worth, a con­ver­sa­tion the at­tor­ney de­scribed as emo­tional.

Lawyer John Henry Browne said he met for more than three hours with Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 10-year veteran who is be­ing held in an iso­lated cell at the mil­i­tary prison.

“What’s go­ing on on the ground in Afghanistan, you read about it, I read about it, but it’s to­tally dif­fer­ent when you hear about it from some­body who’s been there,” Mr. Browne told the As­so­ci­ated Press by tele­phone dur­ing a lunch break. “It’s just re­ally emo­tional.”

Sgt. Bales, 38, has not been charged yet in the March 11 shoot­ings, which have en­dan­gered re­la­tions be­tween the U.S. and Afghanistan and threat­ened to upend Amer­i­can pol­icy over the decade-old war.

For­mal charges are ex­pected to be filed within a week.

Post spokes­woman Re­becca Steed said ear­lier that Sgt. Bales would be able to meet Mr. Browne in what is de­scribed as a priv­i­leged visit. Along with med­i­cal vis­its, such meet­ings are gen­er­ally more pri­vate than oth­ers con­ducted in the prison.

Sgt. Bales is “al­ready be­ing in­te­grated into the nor­mal pre­trial con­fine­ment rou­tine,” Ms. Steed said.

That in­cludes re­cre­ation, meals and clean­ing the area where he is be­ing housed. Ms. Steed said once his meet­ings with his at­tor­ney are com­plete later in the week, Sgt. Bales will re­sume the nor­mal in­te­gra­tion process.

His day be­gins at 5 a.m., with a meal at 5:15. Then it’s back to his cell and then to any sched­uled meet­ings with med­i­cal, den­tal or men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als. This is the time he also would be meet­ing with Mr. Browne.

Peo­ple in pre­trial con­fine­ment eat sep­a­rately from the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion for all meals in the same din­ing hall. Sgt. Bales is be­ing held in an area with about a dozen other ser­vice mem­bers who are await­ing the le­gal process, Ms. Steed said.

Among those be­ing held at Fort Leav­en­worth are Pfc. Bradley Man­ning, charged in the Wik­ileaks case, and Sgt. John Rus­sell, who faces charges in the shoot­ing deaths of five ser­vice mem­bers at a combat stress clinic in Bagh­dad.

If the case goes to court, the trial will be held in the United States, said a le­gal ex­pert with the U.S. mil­i­tary fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the case.

That ex­pert said charges were still be­ing de­cided and that the lo­ca­tion for any trial had not yet been de­ter­mined. If the sus­pect is brought to trial, it is pos­si­ble that Afghan wit­nesses and vic­tims would be flown to the United States to par­tic­i­pate.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

John Henry Browne, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. sol­dier sus­pected of killing 16 Afghan civil­ians March 16, says his first meet­ing with his client at the Fort Leav­en­worth, Kan., mil­i­tary prison was “re­ally emo­tional.” Sgt. Bales is be­ing held in an iso­lated cell.

Robert Bales

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