U.S. hopes swift action assuages tensions
WASHINGTON – Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with 17 counts of murder, assault and a string of other offenses in the massacre of Afghan villagers as they slept, a U.S. official said.
The charges signed against Bales include 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault as well as dereliction of duty and other violations of military law, the official said on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been announced.
The 38-year-old soldier and father of two who lives in Lake Tapps, Wash., is charged with going on a shooting rampage in two villages near his southern Afghanistan military post in the early hours of March 11, gunning down nine Afghan children and eight adults and burning some of the victims’ bodies. A U.S. official has said Bales was drinking on the night of the shootings.
The charges are to be read to Bales today. He is being held in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and faces trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
U.S. officials are hopeful that the charges, less than two weeks after the shootings, will be seen in Afghanistan as an indication that the United States is determined to hold the perpetrator accountable, although a court-martial could be months or even years away.
Also Thursday, Bales was linked to a second incident of drunken violence near his home base in Washington – this time a fight outside a Tacoma bowling alley in 2008.
A Pierce County Sheriff’s Department incident report obtained by the Associated Press quoted a woman claiming Robert Bales told her she was beautiful, then “pulled her hand to his crotch.” The deputy described Bales as “extremely intoxicated.”
The report says Bales began punching and kicking the woman’s boyfriend. When the boyfriend raised one leg to stop the kicking, Bales grabbed the leg and pushed him to the pavement, according to the incident report.
Each person involved in the incident was drunk, to the point of mumbling and slurring their speech, according to the deputy’s account.
The Pierce County prosecutor’s office confirmed that Bales, who was assigned to a Stryker brigade at Joint Base Lewis McChord, had been questioned by police after a scuffle but no charges were filed.
John Henry Browne, an attorney representing Bales in the Afghan killings case, declined to discuss the assault accusations because he said it has no bearing on the Afghanistan matter.
Details of the incident follow a report this week that Bales had been arrested in 2002 for a drunken assault of a security guard at a Tacoma casino. Bales was charged with criminal assault when he was said to have threatened another customer after a night of drinking at the casino bar. He refused to leave, then attacked the guard with a garbage can lid and struck him in the chest with his fist, according to court records.
Bales paid a $300 fine and underwent anger management training to have that charge dismissed.
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