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Soldier sentenced to life in prison for Afghanistan massacre

By Gene Johnson

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:00 a.m. HST, Aug 23, 2013

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. » A military jury today sentenced a U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians last year to life in prison without a chance of parole.

The decision came in the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 40, who pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

Bales did not recount specifics of the horrors in court when he testified Thursday or offer an explanation for the violence, but he described the killings as an "act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, bulls--- and bravado."

"I'm truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away," he said in a mostly steady voice during questions from one of his lawyers. "I can't comprehend their loss. I think about it every time I look at my kids."

Bales said he hoped his words would be translated for the nine villagers who traveled from Afghanistan to testify against him — none of whom elected to be in court to hear from him.

His statements were not made under oath, which prevented prosecutors from cross-examining him.

Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left his outpost at Camp Belambay, in Kandahar province, in the middle of the night to attack two villages.

The nine Afghans — some angry and at least one cursing Bales — testified over two days about their lives since the attacks. Haji Mohammad Wazir said he lost 11 relatives, including his mother, wife and six of his seven children.

"If someone loses one child, you can imagine how devastated their life would be," Wazir said. "If anybody speaks to me about the incident ... I feel the same, like it's happening right now."

Attorneys for Bales made much of Bales' repeated deployments and suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury may have played a role in the killings. But they offered no testimony from psychiatrists or other doctors, saying they saw little point in making the case a battle of the experts.

Instead, they had Bales and some of his fellow soldiers testify about the difficulties they endured and the images that stuck with them after earlier tours in Iraq. They rested their defense after Bales finished speaking.

In his closing argument, the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, displayed photos of a young girl who was executed as she screamed and cried, as well as surveillance video of Bales returning to the base with what Morse called "the methodical, confident gait of a man who's accomplished his mission."

While questioning other witnesses, prosecutors noted Bales' checkered past, including a fraud investigation and eventual $1.5 million judgment, a drunken-driving arrest in 2005, a driving under the influence crash in 2008, and lies on re-enlistment documents about his criminal history.

Bales' lawyers did their best to paint a sympathetic picture of a patriotic man who was an ideal father and had been his senior class president and quarterback of the high school football team in Norwood, Ohio.

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ryan02 wrote:
He should have gotten the death penalty, but I read that because he pleaded guilty, they couldn't give him death. At least he got the maximum that they could give. And I hate his non-apology, where he's sorry for the people "whose families got taken away." I mean, really? Their families were passively "taken away"? Because I think they were brutally murdered. When criminals offer non-apologies, it's like a big "f- you" to the victims' families.
on August 23,2013 | 08:56AM
tsboy wrote:
Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter is going to get the death penalty. Bales should as well. killing civilians could be excused under extenuating circumstances. this was flat out murder. no excuse for this.
on August 23,2013 | 08:59AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Justice is blind. Wazir will never see his 11 loved ones again. I simply can't imagine his pain, which he'll experience until the day he dies. Prosecution should have never taken the death penalty off the table. Now we get to feed and care for him for the rest of his life.
on August 23,2013 | 09:25AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Timothy McVeigh got rid off because he killed Americans. But this scum murderer .........
on August 23,2013 | 09:42AM
serious wrote:
This is stupid. Where's the firing squad? Where's John Wayne when you really need him? The cost of keeping him in prison until he rots---vs a few $1 bullets????
on August 23,2013 | 09:43AM
50skane wrote:
Should turn him over to the the Afghan families he destroyed to let them do what they want to him....an eye for an eye..although they wouldn't get to kill his wife and kids..but I'm sure it would give them some sort of satisfaction.
on August 23,2013 | 10:47AM
Morimoto wrote:
Oh how i'd wish to hand him over to the Afghans in the villages where he committed him cowardly murders.
on August 23,2013 | 11:03AM
false wrote:
Why the heck are we in that county in the first place? We should concentrate on taking care of our own. One we get the heck out of that country things will get like it has gotten like Iraq. Is it really worth the lives and
on August 23,2013 | 11:25AM
RichardCory wrote:
Well, at least the SA comments are consistent in their bloodlust. Doesn't matter if you're a street hoodlum or a soldier, everyone here wants everyone to die.
on August 23,2013 | 11:45AM
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