Lawyer: Mas­sacre sus­pect trau­ma­tized

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY MIKE BAKER

OLYMPIA, WASH. | The U.S. sol­dier ac­cused of killing 17 Afghan civil­ians suf­fered a trau­matic in­ci­dent dur­ing his sec­ond tour in Iraq that trig­gered “tremen­dous de­pres­sion,” his lawyer said Wed­nes­day.

Lawyer John Henry Browne said he could not dis­cuss the de­tails of the mat­ter be­cause it re­mains clas­si­fied. But he ex­pects the is­sue to be­come a fo­cal point in the case against Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

“It caused him tremen­dous de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety,” Mr. Browne said.

The lawyer pre­vi­ously said Sgt. Bales ex­pe­ri­enced other ma­jor dan­gers in his de­ploy­ments, in­clud­ing a se­ri­ous foot in­jury and head trauma. In ad­di­tion, a fel­low sol­dier’s leg had been blown off days be­fore the Afghanistan mas­sacre, he said.

Sgt. Bales was charged with 17 counts of pre­med­i­tated mur­der and other crimes. He is be­ing held at a U.S. mil­i­tary prison at Fort Leav­en­worth, Kan.

A de­fense team is now in Afghanistan to col­lect ev­i­dence and in­ter­view other U.S. sol­diers who knew Sgt. Bales.

“Ev­ery­one they’ve spo­ken to in the mil­i­tary has noth­ing but amaz­ingly pos­i­tive things to say about him,” said Mr. Browne, who is not part of the team in Afghanistan.

Due to se­cu­rity con­cerns, Mr. Browne doesn’t think the team will visit the vil­lages where the killings oc­curred. Mr. Browne ques­tioned the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s case against his client, not­ing there is no pre­served crime scene to as­sess.

“It’s go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult case for the pros­e­cu­tion to prove,” Mr. Browne said. “There’s no ‘CSI’ in­for­ma­tion. There’s no DNA that I know of. There’s no bal­lis­tics that I know of.”

Sgt. Bales has in­di­cated that he had no rec­ol­lec­tion of pre­scrip­tion drugs he may have been tak­ing be­fore the shoot­ing — some­thing the at­tor­ney took as an in­di­ca­tor of larger mem­ory prob­lems. The lawyer also said his client has a sketchy mem­ory of the night of the shoot­ings.

U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said Sgt. Bales was drink­ing on a south­ern Afghanistan base on March 11 be­fore go­ing to two vil­lages at night, shoot­ing his vic­tims and set­ting many of them on fire. Nine were chil­dren.

Sgt. Bales has had past in­ci­dents in­volv­ing al­co­hol and vi­o­lence. In 2002, he was ar­rested for a drunken as­sault of a se­cu­rity guard at a Ta­coma, Wash., casino. In 2008, a cou­ple ac­cused an in­tox­i­cated Sgt. Bales of grab­bing a woman’s hand and thrust­ing it to­ward his crotch be­fore kick­ing and punching the woman’s boyfriend.

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