SEATTLE — The Army staff sergeant charged with slaughtering 16 villagers in one of the worst atrocities of the Afghanistan war will plead guilty to avoid the death penalty in a deal that requires him to recount the horrific attack for the first time, his attorney told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was "crazed" and "broken" when he slipped away from his remote southern Afghanistan outpost and attacked mud-walled compounds in two slumbering villages nearby, lawyer John Henry Browne said.
His client's mental state didn't rise to the level of a legal insanity defense, Browne said, and Bales will plead guilty next week.
Any plea deal must be approved by the judge as well as the commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Bales is being held. A plea hearing is set for June 5, and a sentencing-phase trial set for September will determine if Bales is sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.
Browne previously indicated Bales remembered little from the night of the massacre, and he said that was true just after the attack. But as further details and records emerged, Bales began to remember what he did, the lawyer said, and he will admit to "very specific facts" about the shootings.
Bales, an Ohio native and father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., had been drinking contraband alcohol, snorting Valium provided by another soldier and taking steroids before the attack.
Testimony last fall established that Bales returned to his base between attacking the villages, woke up a soldier and confessed. The soldier didn't believe him and went back to sleep, and Bales left to continue the slaughter.
Most of the victims were women and children. The slayings drew such angry protests that the United States temporarily halted combat operations in Afghanistan.