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U.S. Soldier Accused of Afghan Massacre Begins Building Defense

March 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: The American soldier accused of a massacre in Afghanistan began laying out his defense today. He had initial meetings with his lawyer, even as military investigators continued their work.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ new temporary home is an isolated cell at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas. The 38-year-old was flown there on Friday from a U.S. facility in Kuwait where he’d first been brought from his military base near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Bales’ civilian defense attorney, John Henry Browne, met with him today for the first time.

Yesterday, he spoke about the challenges of the case.

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, attorney for Robert Bales: I couldn’t imagine a more difficult case, I don’t think, I mean, every challenge. I mean, this case has political ramifications. It has legal ramifications. It has social ramifications. So, you know, you couldn’t really imagine a bigger case.

JEFFREY BROWN: Bales is suspected of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in two small villages, nine of them children and 11 from the same family. No formal charges have been filed yet.

News reports quoted military officials as saying he’d been drinking, something his lawyer denied.

Michelle Cadell grew up with Bales in Norwood, Ohio, where he played little league and captained his high school football team.

MICHELLE CADELL, Knew Robert Bales: It’s like you’re talking about two totally different people. You’re not — and every older woman on this street calls him ‘my Bobby,’ not Bobby Bales. You don’t know who Bobby Bales is. It’s ‘my Bobby.’

JEFFREY BROWN: Bales had deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Current neighbors in Lake Tapps say it’s hard to reconcile the married father of two with his alleged actions in Afghanistan.

KASSIE HOLLAND, Washington state: He was so kind to everybody. I mean, he was the kind of person that, as soon as you meet him, you know, it was like you had a friend, kind of.

JEFFREY BROWN: Some pointed to Bales’ three tours in Iraq before he was sent to Afghanistan, including being twice wounded.

BEAU BRITT, Washington state: I can understand. And I kind of sympathize for him, because, I mean, if — you know, being gone, you know, like being sent over there four times, you know, I can understand he’s probably quite racked mentally.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Bales family was planning to move and they had just put their home on the market when the massacre happened.