With formal charges against his client likely within days, the lawyer for an Army sergeant suspected in the slaughter of 16 Afghan villagers was flying to Kansas Sunday and getting ready to meet the soldier for the first time.
John Henry Browne of Seattle said he would meet Monday with Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is being held in an isolation cell at Fort Leavenworth's military prison, the Associated Press reported.
Charges against Bales are expected within a week and he goes on trial it will be in the United States, said a military legal expert with the U.S. military familiar with the investigation.
That expert said charges were still being decided and the location for any trial had not yet been determined. If Bales is brought to trial, Afghan witnesses and victims could be flown to the United States to participate,
Bales, 38 and a four-tour combat veteran, is suspected of walking off his base in southern Afghanistan on Sunday and gunning down the 16 civilians, including nine children and three women.
Bales, whose unit is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., had been held in Kuwait after he was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday, Reuters reported. He was flown to Leavenworth Friday and has not yet been charged.
Browne said in a statement he was being joined by Emma Scanlan, a civilian, and a military defense counsel, Maj. Thomas Hurley, Reuters reported.
Public reports that Sgt. Bales' supervisors, family and friends describe him as a level-headed, experienced soldier are consistent with information gathered by the defense team, Browne's statement said.
It is too early to determine what factors may have played into this incident and the defense team looks forward to reviewing the evidence, examining all of Sgt. Bale's medical and personnel records and interviewing witnesses.
An unnamed U.S. official had told the New York Times the killings were a result of a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues - he just snapped.
But Browne has denied that, saying on CNN that marital problems were totally bogus. He said his client had a very strong marriage and, frankly, we're all taking offense at that.
Sgt. Bales' family is stunned in the face of this tragedy, but they stand behind the man they know as a devoted husband, father and dedicated member of the armed services, Browne's statement on Saturday said.
Bales' wife, Karilyn, and two young children have been moved into military lodging at Lewis-McChord, Browne said earlier in the week.
Karilyn Bales works for a local business communications firm, a firm employee confirmed on Saturday.
Jill Heron, director of marketing and client relations for the firm, known as AMAXRA Inc., told Reuters Karilyn Bales is a valued employee who works remotely and remained employed by the company in Redmond, Wash.
Heron, visibly upset and nervous at her home in rural Carnation, outside Seattle, said she couldn't comment further.
Robert Bales, who completed a two-year associate college degree in 1992, joined the Army in 2001, the Army said in a statement late on Friday when it formally identified him for the first time since Sunday's incident.
His home of record was listed as Jensen Beach, Fla., although Browne has said Bales grew up in the Midwest.
His military training included education in sniper skills, military leadership and a course called combat life savers.
The Army statement said Bales had spent a total of 37 months in three deployments in Iraq between 2003 and 2010.
Bales has had at least one previous run-in with the law, records show. In 2002, he was charged with criminal assault, according to Pierce County, Wash., records.
The court deferred the charge for six months after Bales completed 20 hours of anger management, had no other law violations for six months and paid a $300 fine, the Tacoma News-Tribune said, citing court records.
The court dismissed the charge in February 2003. Reuters could not verify the disposition of the charge.
The News-Tribune also reported Bales was cited for a misdemeanor hit-and-run incident in October 2008 in Sumner.
He received a deferred 12-month sentence, and paid a fine of $250, which led to a dismissal of the charges. Reuters could not verify the report.
Records show the Bales' own two properties, both of which are underwater, meaning the mortgage balances are greater than the value of the properties.
But some of Bales' old comrades remembered him as hero.
Capt. Chris Alexander, who served with Bales for 15 months in Iraq, remembered him as a “very solid” soldier, the New York Daily News reported.
Alexander recalled how Bales shot a man in Mosul, Iraq, who was aiming a rocket-propelled grenade at his platoon’s vehicle.
“There’s no doubt he saved lives that day,” Alexander said.
The massacre in Afghanistan is “100 per cent out of character for him,” he said.