Soldier to plead guilty in Afghan massacre

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SEATTLE (AP) — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was “crazed” and “broken” when he slipped away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost and attacked mud-walled compounds in two slumbering villages nearby.

Next week, Bales will recount what happened next — the slaughter of 16 villagers in one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war. He’ll give specific details in open court as he pleads guilty to the massacre to avoid being put to death.

His attorney, John Henry Browne, said tht although Bales’ state of mind should be considered in sentencing, it didn’t rise to the level of a legal insanity defense.

Browne said Bales was “crazed” and “broken” the night of the attack.

He said his client, on his fourth combat deployment, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He blamed the Army for sending him back to war in the first place. “He’s broken, and we broke him,” Browne said.

The outcome carries high stakes. The Army had been trying to have Bales executed, and Afghan villagers have demanded it.

In Afghanistan today, a family member of a victim reacted angrily to the news that Bales might escape the death penalty. “This is a shameful act by the Americans. They promised us the death penalty, and now they are going back on their word,” said Baraan Noorzia, whose brother was killed in the massacre.

Other relatives expressed even greater outrage at the possibilit last month in Kandahar. “For this one thing, we would kill 100 American soldiers,” vowed Mohammed Wazir, who had 11 family members killed that night, including his mother and 2-year-old daughter. “A prison sentence doesn’t mean anything,” said Said Jan, whose wife and three other relatives died. “... I will have my revenge.”

Any plea deal must be approved by the judge as well as the commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Bales is being held. A plea hearing is set for June 5, said Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield, an Army spokesman.

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