Sgt. Bales attorney: 'He is broken and we broke him'

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on May 31, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Updated Friday, May 31 at 12:21 PM

SEATTLE -  John Henry Browne says the memories came flooding back over time.

“He understands the nature of the proceedings,” Browne says about his client SSgt. Robert Bales. “He broke down considerably. The magnitude of it hit him very forcefully.”
 
Bales has been facing the death penalty, after the Army charged the Lake Tapps soldier with murdering 16 Afghan villagers during an early morning alcohol and drug fueled rampage in March of 2012. Most of the victims were women and children.  Bales is accused of sneaking away from his post to commit the atrocity.
 
But Browne said, in his only local television interview, that his client will admit to the killings in a plea deal to take the death penalty off the table. The plea is expected to come at a military hearing on Wednesday, June 5th.
 
If a judge accepts the deal, Browne says at a subsequent sentencing hearing could argue for the possibility of parole. The attorney says the JBLM soldier was under the influence.  
 
“There were steroids. There was alcohol, and sleep aids,” says Browne. “They were provided to him, at this small base, by special forces.”  
 
Browne also argues Bales had a concussive brain injury, prompted by his fourth deployment.
 
A German filmmaker says some Afghans do believe the system was a problem.
 
“They are mad at Bales, and mad on the systems. They know Bales as part of the system came out going crazy,” said the 2470media.com journalist Lela Ahmadzai.
 
The Berlin-based, and Kabul-born, journalist traveled extensively through Kandahar and talked to several of the survivors from that night, and filmed their reaction for a short documentary “Silent Night - The Kandahar Massacre”.
 
“The village is all separated now,” said Ahmadzai, “The effect is very big.”
 
“In the one house there are no survivors,” she says, “In the house everyone is dead, and burned.”  The survivor is “trying his best to normalize every day life.”
 
Ahmadzai’s short film shows one young victim describing the gunshot wound he suffered.  Yet another man says “my whole family was killed. My mother is dead. My wife is dead. So are my sons, and four daughters.”
 
“We want to see him hung,” says the man.
 
Ahmadzai says she traveled there because she felt the story was not being told.  
 
“The only thing I want to do is record this and bring it to the world.”  She says most villagers understand there is a difference between the crimes Bales is accused of, and the average American.  “They don’t mix up this person, and the other Americans.”
 
But Browne acknowledges there will likely be “negative reactions in many communities in Afghanistan” but says he also believes the case will prompt more discussion on soldier care and deployments.
 
“Obviously he snapped. He was crazed, and he is broken, and we broke him,” says Browne.
 
Lela Ahmadzai’s film, and additional interviews, can be found here.
 

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