Defense wants court-martial at Lewis-McChord
With the Friday announcement of a “convening authority” at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to investigate the alleged crimes of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the sprawling military installation south of Tacoma may once again be the setting for a major war-crimes court-martial.
The Army still could opt to hold the court-martial elsewhere, such as Fort Leavenworth in Kansas where Bales is now incarcerated.
But representatives of Bales’ defense team are expected to press for the court-martial to proceed at the base in Western Washington, where the soldier’s family would be close at hand.
This is the second time within two years that a major war-crimes court-martial has been launched at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Back in the summer of 2010, the base began an investigation that led to the November 2011 court-martial conviction of Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs for the premeditated murder of three unarmed Afghans. Gibbs was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
In addition to Gibbs, three other Lewis-McChord-based soldiers in 2011 went through court-martial proceedings at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and were sentenced for their roles in the killings of the three unarmed Afghans.
Although the timeline for a Bales court-martial is uncertain, it could unfold in the next 18 to 24 months if it follows the precedents set by the courts-martial of Gibbs and his fellow soldiers, according to Maj. Chris Ophardt, a spokesman for I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.