The Army staff sergeant charged with slaughtering 16 villagers during one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war has agreed to plead guilty in a deal to avoid the death penalty, his attorney told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is scheduled to enter guilty pleas to charges of premeditated murder June 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, said lawyer John Henry Browne. A sentencing-phase trial set for September will determine whether he is sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. The judge and the commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Bales is being held, must approve a plea deal.
“The judge will be asking questions of Sgt. Bales about what he did, what he remembers and his state of mind,” Browne said. “The deal that has been worked out … is they take the death penalty off the table, and he pleads as charged, pretty much.”
Browne previously indicated Bales remembered little from the night of the massacre. But as further details and records emerged, Bales’ began to remember what he did, the lawyer said.
Bales is contrite about the killings, Browne said. The attorney would not elaborate on what his client will tell the judge. He described Bales as “crazed” and “broken” the night of the attack.
The defense team eventually determined after having Bales examined by psychiatrists that he would not be able to prove any claim of insanity or diminished capacity at the time of the attack, Browne said.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., slipped away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost at Camp Belambay early on March 11, 2012, and attacked mud-walled compounds in two slumbering villages nearby. Most of the victims were women and children.