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Lawyer says Bales doesn't remember what happened during Afghan shootings

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The lawyer for the Army staff sergeant accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan civilians in a shooting rampage met his client for the first time Monday and said the solider has a sketchy memory of the night of the massacre.

Lawyer John Henry Browne said Robert Bales remembers some details from before and after the killings, but little or nothing from the time the military believes he went on a shooting spree through two Afghan villages.

"He has some memory of some things that happened that night. He has some memories of before the incident and he has some memories of after the incident. In between, very little," Browne told the Associated Press by telephone from Fort Leavenworth, where Bales is being held.

Pressed on whether Bales can remember anything about the shootings, Browne said, "No," but added, "I haven't gotten that far with him yet." In an earlier interview with CBS News, Browne said unequivocally that Bales couldn't remember the shootings.

Bales, 38, has not been charged yet in the March 11 shootings, though charges could come this week. The killings sparked protests in Afghanistan, endangered relations between the two countries and threatened to upend American policy over the decade-old war.

Browne said he and Bales, who is being held in an isolated cell at the military prison, met for more than three hours in the morning at Fort Leavenworth. Browne, co-counsel Emma Scanlan and Bales were expected to talk again in the afternoon.

"What's going on on the ground in Afghanistan, you read about it. I read about it. But it's totally different when you hear about it from somebody who's been there," Browne told the Associated Press by telephone during a lunch break. "It's just really emotional."

At their meeting, Browne said Bales clarified a story, provided initially by the soldier's family, about the timing of a roadside bomb that blew off the leg of one of Bales' friends. It was two days before the shooting, not one, and Bales didn't see the explosion, just the aftermath, Browne said.

The details of the blast could not be immediately confirmed.

Military officials have said that Bales, after drinking on a southern Afghanistan base, crept away to two villages overnight, shooting his victims and setting many of them on fire. Nine of the dead were children and 11 belonged to one family.

His wife: News 'out of character'

Karilyn Bales, the wife of Robert Bales, issued a statement for the first time Monday saying that her family and her in-laws are profoundly sad. She says what they've read and seen in news reports is "completely out of character of the man I know and admire."

Fraud in sergeant's past

The Washington Post reported Monday that Bales' decision to join the Army came at a pivotal point in his pre-military career — a career as a stock trader that appears to have ended months after he was accused of engaging in financial fraud while handling the retirement account of an elderly client in Ohio, according to financial records.

An arbitrator later ordered Bales and the owner of the firm that employed him to pay $1.4 million — about half for compensation and half in punitive damages — for taking part in "fraud" and "unauthorized trading," according to a ruling from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

A review of the investor's account statements, obtained by the Post, shows valuable stocks were sold off in favor of penny stocks as part of what the arbitrator called "churning" by Bales to pump up commissions. The client, Gary Liebschner, 74, said Sunday that he saw none of the award.

There is no indication that the civil judgment weighed on Bales in recent years. He never attended an arbitration hearing in the case — although he had been given legal notice of his right to present his version of events — and an attorney for Liebschner said it had been years since his client had attempted to collect the award from Bales.

But the finding of financial fraud adds to an increasingly complex picture of a man who, on the one hand, is described by friends and neighbors as a family man and even-tempered soldier, and on the other had repeated encounters with the law, including an arrest on suspicion of drunken driving, involvement in a hit-and-run accident and a misdemeanor assault charge.

Lawyer says Bales doesn't remember what happened during Afghan shootings 03/19/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 19, 2012 11:15pm]
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