US soldier accused of Afghan massacre to meet lawyers

 

Robert Bales, the staff sergeant accused of massacring 16 Afghan civilians as they slept two Sundays ago, is set to meet his lawyers for the first time tonight, even as friends and relatives in US struggled to square what they thought they knew about him with the horror of the accusations levelled against him.

“It is too early to determine what factors may have played into this incident and the defence team looks forward to reviewing the evidence, examining all of Sergeant Bales’ medical and personnel records, and interviewing witnesses,” the defence lawyers said before meeting with their client, who is in solitary confinement at a military maximum security unit at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

The defence team, led by John Henry Browne, has pushed back against US military claims that Sergeant Bales, 38, had been drinking before the killings and that he had been under pressure from marital and financial difficulties at home. They have been depicting him as exhausted by four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and potentially suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Among those who have followed bulletins about Sergeant Bales in disbelief is Michelle Caddell, 48, who knew him when he was growing up in Ohio.  “I wanted to see, maybe, a different face,” she told the New York Times, “because that’s not our Bobby. Something horrible, horrible had to happen to him.”

Since the unveiling of his identity last Friday, a portrait has emerged of a man who was a popular school athlete in the Cincinnati suburbs, and whose adult life seems to have had its share of successes, military plaudits, setbacks and disappointments. Blemishes include a hit-and-run car accident attributed to drinking. There is also a misdemeanour charge on his record for assaulting a woman. He enlisted with weeks of 9/11.

Offering glimpses of his life in recent years has been a blog kept by his wife, Karilyn Bales, with whom he has two children.   One of the last entries was made last March, when a hoped-for promotion for her husband which would have more pay and status did not come through.  She wrote of her disappointment “after all of the work Bob has done and all the sacrifices he has made for his love of his country, family and friends”.

Formal charges against Sergeant Bales are likely to be announced in the coming week or so and military court martial is expected to follow, probably at Fort Lewis south of Tacoma, Washington, where he was based.  Both prosecutors and the defence would also seek to fly in witnesses for the trial from Afghanistan. Though a death penalty if he is convicted of those charges is a possibility, experts say no soldier has been executed in the US since 1961.

The Bales case may come to symbolise a US military overstretched for most of the last ten years and under criticism for doing too little to screen soldiers for fitness, physical and mental, when they are deployed multiple times.  After three tours in Iraq – tours that left him with two injuries - Sergeant Bales had begun training as a recruiter at Fort Lewis in hopes of avoiding further war zone service.  However, he was assigned to a unit working treacherous forward duties in Afghanistan last year.  He was loath to go. 

“This is equivalent to what My Lai did to reveal all the problems with the conduct of the Vietnam War,” Dr. Stephen Xenakis a psychiatrist and retired brigadier general said. “The Army will want to say that soldiers who commit crimes are rogues, that they are individual, isolated cases. But they are not.”

Mr Browne denied his client was under financial pressure beyond anything that is commonplace for American families today.  But records show that Sergeant Bales and his wife left one property near Tacoma after failing to keep up with payments and holding a bank debt of $195,000 that is now derelict and moving to another two-storey house that has now been put on the market for less than what they paid for it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000+

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Designate South

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading electro...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - London - up to £44,000

£38000 - £44000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manag...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn